A while back, at my son's cross country event, I decided to take a walk to the stretch of race toward the middle. of the run. Usually I stand at the finish line, but this time I experienced a different aspect of a race. The middle was the part of the race where the runners were in agony. I could tell they were struggling and their muscles ached as their feet pounded the dirt path with stride after stride. Those that were able to persevere and push through the pain kept up their pace and some needed to slow down, maybe walk a few steps, to give their mind and body momentary rest. For some, slowing a bit isn't an option; their minds take over and their bodies move with the momentum of just making it to the finish line. That is how I feel. I want to slow down but sometimes I just can't physically do it.
But really, it wasn't the agony or striving of the runners that caught my attention. What caught my attention actually took my attention off the runners. I saw coaches, die-hard supporters of the kids, passionate moms all running alongside, encouraging them to keep going. They were clapping their hands and encouraged with shouts of "You can do it" "Push through" "Keep going, don't stop, don't look back" Sometimes the coaches can get just as exhausted as their runners!
The finish line was around the bend, down the path and these coaches just had to get the runners to the point in the race where they could see that threshold of the end. Sometimes just seeing the finish line is enough to help keep me going when I want to collapse and fall apart in a big sobbing mess. After days like today I need to to hear the words "Don't look back" in order to press me on to tomorrow.
The finish line is just around a few bends. I know that. I have run races much longer than this and I have not only wanted to slow down but have almost quit the race all together. It was those long races in life that have given me the endurance, the hope, the faith, the trust, the truth that there is light at the end of the tunnel. These are the races I have run only to find myself at another starting line.
The teen years. . . I almost quit that race one night.
The college years . . . I was so tempted to take short cuts to get to the next stage life.
Those really hard years of marriage . . . I really thought that the grass would be greener on the other side. It was only by the grace of God that I didn't get off track and hop the fence!
Those years when I had 3 kids under 4 years old. That was an exhaustion that I have never experienced in any other race.
The collapsing economy and our financial emergency. . . it seemed like the finish line got further and further away with every step we took.
During each of those challenges, it was those "coaches" that helped me through each stretch. Those supporters that believed in me, prayed for me, encouraged me, lent helping hands and the feet of those that ran beside me that got me nearer to the finish line. Sometimes as we run our own races, we are also running alongside others all at the same time. Eventually the weariness catches up.
This almost 40 year old me is in the middle of a race. And I am weary right now. Sometimes I find my pace, sometimes I slow down a bit, and sometimes it is just momentum that keeps me going. But in the midst of my weariness I feel a resolve to keep my running shoes on. In fact I need to put them on even earlier each day and get up and find my pace with prayer. Prayer for my day, prayer for those I am running along beside, prayer for those that need encouragement right now. In my notes from a sermon a few weeks ago I wrote, "following Jesus is running and restful."
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
My rest comes when I run with the Lord and not in my own strength. In order to do this I need time in prayer and worship and a dose of daily bread, His Word.
I think in this race we could all use some rest like that.
And we need each other too. We need encouragement to keep going. Friend to friend. Mentor to the one mentored Sister to sister. Brother to brother.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.." Hebrews 12:1-2
The race really will not be over until we reach the finish line and find ourselves in eternity with Christ. Until then, let's encourage each other through the long, dark stretches and rejoice in the days of easy strides.
Thanks for running and resting with me today!