Two stories today since I missed yesterday and had an inspiring morning.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24 (NIV)
This morning, youngest son ran in his first 5K race. He runs a lot for school, but just recently decided to try competitive racing. This Jingle Jog benefited a home and school for children and adults with mental disabilities. He kept telling us there was no need for us to go, it was “just a charity event” after all, but we wanted to go even if we do embarrass him when we are around his friends. So, we got up at 5:30 to be at the race site by 7:00 and tried to stay out of his way till the race started at 8:00. While we stood near the registration tables, we immediately could tell who the experienced runners were and who were there simply to support the charity. The competitors had on fancy silk shirts and teeny tiny shorts. Their shoes all had springs underneath the heel. They skipped and stretched in the chilly morning air wearing very little clothing. Some of the men even stripped off their shirts, showing off rippling biceps and long lean legs. I won’t mention the women who did the same, but my husband appreciated them. As fine examples of God’s creation, mind you. Those who just came out for the love of the event had on T-shirts and sweat pants or regular shorts. Some wore tennis shoes. Many had a look of apprehension on their face. When the race started, almost four hundred runners crowded the street, but a few separated themselves early on. Sixteen minutes later, a man dressed in a bright yellow tank shirt and running shorts crossed the finish line. He ran on average a five minute mile to do so. A little while later, we applauded and cheered for our son who finished 109th, about the top twenty five percent. We were very proud of him and his accomplishment. A little while later, they announced the start of a one mile race so we turned to watch those runners cross the finish line. I was amazed to see the same man dressed in yellow running the one mile race, but this time, it was different. He pushed a wheel chair in front of him in which sat a boy of about ten with severe handicaps. This time, the man did not come in first place, but that is because about twenty feet from race’s end, he stopped. Carefully, he unstrapped his son from the wheelchair, picked him up and set him on his feet. Then, the boy cautiously weaved his way, one step at a time across the finish line. His dad was right behind him, standing in ready to catch him if he fell. I wept at the beauty of it all. A boy determined to finish and a father encouraging him on. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Don’t hesitate to run the race He has set before you. Even if you have to crawl, don’t give up. Stay determined to complete your course.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
One of the reasons youngest son decided to start racing is because of the support of a teacher. The unofficial running coach is an English teacher. Ms. K. competes in Ironman triathlons. She is a great encourager, teasing, demanding, and bossy, yet the kids love and respect her. She told him about Adventure Racing, helped form the teams and supported them throughout that fun day where they covered almost thirty miles. She secured the entry forms for today’s 5K race. Ms. K. fractured her knee in an Ironman in Mexico a few months ago. Despite the injury, she finished that race, but now, she is supposed to be resting and waiting for the knee to heal. She entered today’s race planning to walk the course, but surrounded by competitors, she could not contain herself. With ten of her students entered, she decided to jog along with them. Four, including our son, sprinted ahead in an effort to compete, but Ms. K and six of the students ran together starting with a steady, easy pace. The four who struck out ahead crossed the finish line, got their times and placements and paced to keep their muscles from cramping up. We all waited for the rest to approach the end of the race. A little while later, we saw Ms. K. and one student coming towards us. She was talking to him as they ran, cajoling him to keep going. As they came to the finish line, she reached out and pushed him ahead of her. They both finished and took their place cards. However, Ms. K. did not stop running. She turned around and retraced her steps. Where was she going? we wondered. Soon, it became clear as she hustled a boy and a girl down the track and towards the finish line. More pushing, more encouraging. When they crossed the line, she turned again. Three more to go! She found the other two, motivating them as they ran with her right beside them. By this time, the rest of the team had caught on to her method. They, too, joined their fellow students and reran portions of the race, calling and cheering them along. Finally, only one student from their school had not yet completed the race. Where was he? They all set off to look and were gone a long time. Finally, we saw in the distance, Ms. K. finishing the race for the sixth time almost dragging along a panting, tired boy. Only when he crossed the finish line, did she quit her race as well. She ran on a fractured knee, but was unwilling to stop until all of her team had made it safely to the end. Someone once said that Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded. Sadly, it can be true. Instead, we need to be encouraging each other, cheering each other on as we go through this life. It is not only about finishing the race, it is about your fellow racer as well.