A little over a month ago, Mark and I went to the boys’ cross-country meet, to cheer them on. I haven’t been to a cross-country meet since I ran in them in public school. It’s pretty much the same as it was then. It’s still about doing your best, managing the pain and finishing the race.
I loved cheering on the boys and the other runners. At different points you could see them and I yelled loud and clapped hard. Even for the kids I didn’t know. Everyone deserved to be encouraged. Getting out there to run isn’t easy. It’s risky. It’s takes courage. It was a grueling course through a ravine with steep hills and treacherous footing. If you didn’t pay attention, you were likely to take a tumble. In fact that’s what happened to our oldest. As he passed my husband, he looked up out of his pain and tiredness and focus and gave Mark the peace sign and then lost his footing and fell. He had been distracted. But thankfully, he got back up and continued the race.
Near the end of the course, family members and schoolmates cheered the runners on to the end. I love finish lines. The winners of a couple of the races were so far ahead of any other runner, it was incredible. They were the epitome of a body attuned to the rythmn of the run. Natural. Stunning. Then the others that come after. In all kinds of dramatic finishes. The ones who came up from behind and beat the person ahead of them at the last moment. The ones who were in a fierce battle to the end. The ones who were just glad to be done! I cheered our boys in. I was proud that they had done their best and finished the race well.
And then came the ones bringing up the rear. By then most of the cheerleaders had moved on. There was only a few of us left to applaud the late ones in. But I stayed. It’s the ones who struggle through the race and come last that fascinate me. They have some of the best stories. Maybe the stories I can relate to the most, anyways. They are the ones who have struggled throughout the whole race. It may not be so natural to their bodies. Or they were done in by cramps. Whatever the case, the fact that they are finishing the race is a huge accomplishment. They deserve the applause.
But one race was a stand-out. In my son’s class there is a boy with some challenges. But he runs. And one of the teachers who is also a coach, runs with him during the race. They were last in but it was a beautiful finish because despite everything, HE.FINISHED.THE.RACE. It wasn’t about what place he came in. It was about running the race. The journey, from start to finish. And his coach and running mate was right there beside him. It speaks volumes about the boy’s character. It tells you what kind of a teacher she is. I was glad it was sunny and big sunglasses are all the rage, because the tears were streaming down my face. I was in awe of them both. I was proud they were from our school! I felt priviledged to witness the respect, the care and love of this last place finish.
A race is rich with all kinds of metaphors if you look for them. I’m sure you’ve read between the lines and can come up with your own.
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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb 12:1-3 NIV
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7 NIV
Well done my good and faithful servant. Matt 25:23
What kind of race do you want to run? I want to run the kind of race that Hebrews talks about. Focused on the only ONE, shedding the messes, the sin, the fear that entangles and trips me up. With a cloud of witnesses or cheerleaders encouraging me on. That’s the race I want to run. Am I running that race? I hope I’m getting closer to it every day. What kind of race do you want to run?
I also want to be in that cloud of witnesses cheering others on. We all need to be cheered on but we also need to cheer others on. I hope that I can run alongside friends, urging them on and maybe they can run alongside me, when I need a running mate.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”