Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Running Over Hurdles

Yesterday, I watched with great joy as my third-born daughter Joana ran the lead-off leg in her Middle School track team's 4x100 meter relay and gave her squad a lead that brought them within 3 one-hundredths of a seconds of setting a school record. All of us who watched knew it would be a blistering time, as their team came within a few inches of beating the boys relay team (the boys and girls run relays together to save time in the meets, which often run rather long, though their times and places are recorded separately.) I really enjoy these meets. In fact, if one observes carefully, there is as much intrigue in the preparation of the races and post-race reflection as there is in the actual races themselves. I was particular interested in the great care the starter took to remind runners of important aspects of racing like maintaining lane integrity and carrying out clean exchanges without dropping the baton. These aspects of track and field translate very well into life lessons and make it easy for us to see why the Bible uses racing imagery in describing the Christian way of life.

With this imagery in mind, Hebrews 12:1-3 instructs us as follows:
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

"Let us run the race marked out for us - fixing our eyes on Jesus" These words really speak to me this week. In the midst of some pretty significant Christian Life challenges for me, this verse reminds me that I need to stay on track, maintaining "lane integrity" by running the course the Lord has laid out for me and to endure. I got some excellent perspective for this verse through the feats of one of Joana's teammates in yesterday's meet. A spectacular athlete, my daughter's friend set a school record in the long jump earlier in the season and broke her own record 3 times in 3 successive contests including yesterday's meet! On a record smashing blitz, she set out blazing through the 200 meter hurdles, certain to obliterate the old standing record, when the unthinkable happened - she fell over a hurdle! A lesser runner would have lost it and given up the race. The record was now out of reach and she could have quit with every one's understanding and affirmation. But my daughter's friend is not a lesser runner. Picking herself up with grit and determination, she refocused on the course set before her and ran like a woman possessed! In the manner of the legendary Eric Liddel of "Chariots of Fire" fame, through herculean effort, she caught up with the field, and though she didn't break the record, she amazingly won the race!

Upon hearing of this amazing display of heart and courage, I couldn't help but think of some of the hurdles of life that often knock us down and seemingly out of the race - life tragedies, the betrayal of friends, goals and dreams that go unrealized and all sorts of unplanned life interruptions that knock us off of our feet and for a moment, out of the race. It is then that we must emulate and appropriate my daughter's friend's actions - to pick ourselves up, refocus on the course Jesus has laid out for us and the goal, Jesus Himself, and run with all our might. Even if we don't "win" as my daughter's friend did, the Lord expects us to run until we reach the finish line to receive our "Well Done!" from the Lord.

I don't know how all of the hurdles that have come my way this week will alter my placement in "The Race", but I know that Jesus has set the course and that He wants me to run all the way through, with integrity and with everything that is within me. I invite you to run the course Jesus has set up for you in the same way. Don't stay down. Get up and keep on running until the end! Until next time,


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