Going the Distance

They were amazing.
Strong, confident, and running to their potential, my son and his teammates captured the title in their Conference and all seven runners made the All-Conference team.
The chilly night wasn’t over, though. There were two more races to be run by the Junior Varsity.
As wonderful as it was to watch our Varsity teams excel, the JV races brought tears to my eyes.
Right before the boys JV race started I heard coach say to the guys “Cheer for J. Everywhere you can on the course, cheer for J.” I asked a parent standing by what the coach meant (because we all cheered for everybody, why single out J?) The parent explained to me that even though he’d been part of the team all season, J hadn’t run a single race due to serious health issues. So this meet, one of the last of the season, was his first race. We parents cheered for him with the boys at the first turn, and then the seven, who had already finished their race, took off again to meet J at another part on the course.
Later, tears came to my eyes as I watched the entire Varsity team running alongside J as he struggled far behind the other runners. His older teammates dropped out as he approached the last leg of the race and cheered from the sidelines as J finished…tired, weary, and minutes behind the next runner. But he’d finished his race and he wasn’t alone.
Then the girls’ race started. All season I’d watched her; struggling well behind the others almost shuffling instead of running. Yet there she was, running this race no differently than the others. Race after race, she ran to the finish no matter what. I marveled at her perseverance and determination. Later, as the scant crowd cheered her across the finish line, with a lump in my throat, my eyes once again filled with tears as she finished her own race.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

Throughout the years, God uses certain phrases in this familiar verse to change my heart or focus. At times “throw off anything that hinders” convicts me. “Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” rang particularly true when my dear father-in-law lost his battle with cancer. But the last year, because of what a friend said in a conversation, the phrase “run the race marked out for us” impacts my heart.
So yesterday, as I watched runners of every shape, size, and ability cross the finish line, I realized again that we each have to run our own race. We can’t run the race marked for someone else; we’d only be discouraged or confused.
In Christ, we all have the same goal, but each individual’s race is unique. Some people start out fast; others have a kick at the end. Some are always in front and others constantly bring up the rear.
Is the last person’s race any less important than the winner’s? In this spiritual race, it’s crossing the finish line that matters. It’s getting to the end, knowing we’ve done our best and run the race that our Coach set before us with determination and perseverance that holds value.
Thankfully, we don’t run alone, but we have teammates cheering us on from the sidelines and even, at times, running alongside us.

What a beautiful thing.

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