Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person get the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT)
Yesterday morning’s pre-service prayer time focused on this verse. The man leading the time talked about running the race to win. He said people who race are in it to win it. They compete for a prize. They struggle and strain to beat the other participants.
Hmm. Has he ever raced? I mean no disrespect, yet…I never race to win. I know, toeing the starting line, that I am not the fastest. I am not the strongest (usually). I am a short person with short legs. I do not have a 44″ inseam.
But winning is not the reason I race. Placing is nice; done that a couple of times. I race for the joy of it. Being outside, among the trees and with other runners, is such a life analogy. We’re going the same way. We’re pushing ourselves to do our best. Trying to avoid puddles, potholes, blisters, stray dogs and any flying bird poop. There’ s a camaraderie you won’t find in any other solo activity.
If you’re in a long race like a half marathon or a marathon, people crowd the sidelines. They’re awed at what you can do. Some have done it themselves and some only dream about running a long distance. Or maybe they have nightmares about it. Whatever, they’re there. They cheer for strangers and have goofy signs that say “Run like you stole it” and “Donuts at the finish”. Most have family or friends in the race. They stand there in the cold and rain yelling encouragement.
I also race to improve my own time, to get a PR. I won’t catch the wiry gal who looks like a long-limbed Russian transplant. She’s poetry in motion, legs churning purposefully, strides measuring the course easily. I might even get beaten by the old guy in an ankle brace. Hey, it’s happened! I must press on at my pace. I need to take my thoughts captive and believe it can be done. I need to drink water when the aid stations turn up! But just say no to gummy bears.
What I come back to is…did I run well? Did I do my best? Did I finish the race? This Scripture feels more to my liking: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful (2 Timothy 4:7).
Isn’t that what life is all about? Life for most of is no 100-yard dash. We’re in it for the long haul and we can’t see where it ends. Like running a 5k or longer, we can’t see the finish. Maybe the finish line is right back where we started and our life will be a series of out-and-backs. Maybe it will be a gigantic loop. Maybe it’s a point-to-point race. We simply don’t know where or when our human life-race ends. No matter. Have we done well? Did we keep the faith?