Marathon Thinking

“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.”  — Hebrews 12:1-2

My college-age son recently ran a marathon.

Having never attended a marathon or known a runner in it, it was a totally new experience for me. He chowed down pasta and planned for the big day. Day of he was up at 4 a.m. before the dawn, eating a last meal, deciding on last minute items to take, then he left to go downtown. My husband and I studied maps and websites and planned our route, which would take us on two train rides and a car ride or two to watch him at mile 15 and the finish line.

And so we began our journey on a beautiful crisp autumn day to cheer him on. His progress could be tracked on an app, so we could see where he was on the route. We got ourselves to a beautiful park around mile 15 and waited with other spectators.

Some runners jogged by, their faces smiling, ear buds in place, very little sweat on their shirts. Others looked like they were in pain, eyebrows furrowed, their mouths set in a hard line of determination. Others were already walking, shirts and hats soaked with sweat. What would our son look like?

We waited and waited, as a band played loudly and people rattled cowbells and whooped for their friends. Finally we spotted him, sunglasses on, head held high, no look of pain or frustration. He could have been out for a stroll window shopping, that’s how relaxed he looked.

We called and waved and he saw us and jogged by with the wave of other runners. We watched until he disappeared then began the trip on the train to our car then drove to the next area closer to the finish line. Hopping on board light rail and going to the state capital, excitement was in the air. Crowds swelled around the capital grounds, loudspeakers and music blared. Squeezing into the finish line crowd, people yelled and cheered and clanged bells. Finally after some time, my son jogged by, ran under the orange Finish sign and was gone. We found him in the crowd sometime later, limping and in pain. But he had finished!

There was such a thrill to seeing him finish a grueling race. He described how the pain had started at mile 18. His feet hurt, his legs hurt, but he was determined to finish. With about a month’s training and his top training running distance at only 13 miles, I was amazed he made it 26.2 miles! He had grit. He had determination, and he told himself mile after mile that he HAD to finish. No other option.

I am reminded of this determination when I read the text in Hebrews on running the race of faith. Many times in life we falter, we get tired, we get hurt, and the end seems too far away. We think there is no way we can get through a particular situation or a particular job or a particular difficulty. But with God’s strength, an eye on Jesus, and an inner grit that tells us we can do it and we have to finish, we can accomplish anything.

My son’s accomplishment inspired me on many levels. I hope it might inspire you as well. What race are you running today? How might you fix your eyes of Jesus and run to the finish?

Prayer– “Gracious God, I pray for strength and courage to run the race you have set before me. Come alongside me and encourage me today, that I may fix my eyes on Jesus, determined that I will do what you ask. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

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