The crowd scattered over the barren, grassy hills of the links course along the race route cheering on the runners. About half way through the race, as I watched them round a bend in the distance, I realized that my son was in the lead. Doubling my cheering efforts, I watched him hold his form, confident and sure, and push on to victory! He won his race! Immediately after finishing, he briefly talked to me then hurried off the find his fellow teammate, D. It didn’t dawn on me then why he was rushing off to find him, but as his JV teammates continued to stream across the line and join D, I realized what they were doing. You see, D has autism and although this was one of the last races of the season, for him, it was the first. Because he ran at a slower pace, he was anxious about getting lost on the course; one by one, his team joined him so he wouldn’t run alone. As D came around the final turn and ran to the finish line, he was surrounded by the entire Unity Cross Country team–JV and Varsity–running along side him and cheering. The lump grew in my throat and the tears threatened to spill over and I thought about Hebrews 12 and I Thessalonians and Hebrews 3 and felt privileged to be a witness to this race. But as proud as I was of my son for finishing first, I was overwhelmed with parental pride and school pride as I watched Nate and these young men support D as he ran his own race.
Watching D reminded me of one of my favorite Nike commercials during the Olympics this past summer:
Running his own race, D persevered and found his greatness.
When I view that commercial and listen to the words of the narrator and think about D and his race, I think of how often we want someone else’s greatness. We don’t want our own. In fact, we despise our own race. I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in comparison with others that I feel useless. Mediocrity and obscurity narrow my vision and all I can see is the greatness in others and smallness of me. I forget the words in Ephesians that remind me (and you):
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
and from Colossians:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
I forget that I may never be the first place runner, but my race is still important and being there to cheer on others is still important.
God has greatness planned for each one of us. And your greatness might include finishing 1st in races or singing in front of crowds or raising millions to help the poor or preaching to the multitudes. Or your greatness may be seen by few as you tirelessly serve your special-needs child or minister to your ailing parent or patiently teach the unlovable kid with behavioral problems or care for your young children or show grace to your co-workers.
No one may see you in the greatness God has planned for you; but it doesn’t diminish it–not in His eyes anyway.