It was a beautiful bright, clear, very cool morning, and hundreds of spectators had gathered on Robins Air Force base to watch. They were mostly parents and family members, mine included, who had traveled many miles, to watch just one race…the RACE. This is one of the races I have been training for months with my neighbor, Kerry. There we stood in the shivering cold, bundled with stashes of Gu beneath, waiting with thousands at the starting line. For those few minutes, I began looking around at other racers. There were people stretching, bouncing with excitement, smiling, and laughing while waiting the seemingly endless moments for the sound of the gun to start the race. There was something deeply spiritual about that scene and the excitement warmed my heart.
When the gun fired, we waited several minutes before we started moving, but that didn’t stop us from moving in place in preparation for the long run ahead. As we crossed the starting line and along the road, you could hear spectators clapping, cheering and shouting, but that wonderful sound soon grew faint as we moved further and further away. To keep my thoughts away from my running, I watched my fellow runners’ paces, strides, and gear. I thought about how they trained and prepared for this particular race. Who helped them train? How long have they been training?
We approached many mile markers where some spectators and volunteers stood ready to welcome and congratulate runners as they passed by. You could see their excitement, while trying to make sure we heard every word of encouragement, “Your doing great! Keep it up!”
The last mile seemed like it was out of reach. As I reached the last turn toward the finish line, I saw my father waiting patiently with my oldest son searching for me to come into view. My eyes teared up and then I began to wave and shout yards away, “Hey!” When I came clear into my son’s view, he ran my way smiling and shouting “You’re doing great Mama,” and took my hand to run the last hundred yards with me. He saw no other runner. He ran as fast as he could, keeping the pace, giving no spectacle he made and said softly, “Run, Mama, run! Run Mama, run!” Although I was growing weary, my son, whose heart was bursting with exertion and emotion, continued to stay with me till the end. There were hundreds of people surrounding the finish line, shouting and clapping, but my son was determined to be there by side. I crossed the finish line, turned and gave my son a great big hug. We laughed, having the best time together, like there was no one else in the world but us. “God,” I thought, this is so beautiful. Thank you for allowing me to experience this moment.”
As we drove away from the base, I couldn’t get it off of my mind. A whole morning of outstanding performances had merged into a single happening. I thought of a race that I that us believers are running as well. A different and far more important race. A race that requires even greater stamina, courage, and character.
I am not only a runner in this race, I am also an encourager, a spectator to my children who are running. I have helped them train; I have pleaded, instructed, threatened, punished, prayed, praised, laughed, and cried. I have even tried to familiarize them with the course. But now the gun is up and their race has begun, and I am a spectator. Like my son, my heart, too, is bursting.
I see no other runners. Sometimes their course takes them far from me, and yet I whisper, “Run, children, run.” They do not hear it, but there is One who does. Occasionally, they grow weary, because the race is long and demands much sacrifice. They witness hypocrisy, and there are many voices that call to them to quit this foolish race, telling them they cannot possibly win. They lose sight of their goal, and they falter and stumble, and I cry, “Run, children, run!”
And then they come to the last hundred yards, how I long to be there to run beside them, “Run, Tyler; run, Zachary.” What if I am gone and there is no one to whisper, to shout “Run” in their ears? What if satan convinces them that they are not going to win? What if his great lie, that you must beat the others, causes them to allow defeat to settle over them? What if they lose sight of the great truth, that in this race, it is finishing that is the victory. That is why our Lord Jesus said at the last, “It is finished.” That is why the great apostle Paul said, “I have finished my course.”
Oh God, hear my prayer. If they cannot hear my voice, if I must watch from beyond this arena, dear Lord Jesus, as you have run beside me so often, please run beside them, and strengthen their knees that they may finish. And dear God, when they cross that eternal finish line, may I be there to embrace them and welcome them home. May we cry and laugh and spend eternity praising the grace by which we were given this victory.
So my fellow runners, do not be discouraged! Do not give up! Do not quit! Run the race; Keep the faith and keep your eyes on Jesus!