Lesson From a Two Mile Run

Posted: 12/10/2014 in Life lessons
Tags: , , , , ,

One of my favorite tongue-in-cheek quotes is, “The older I get the better I used to be.”  I guess it presents a humorous way of looking back at all the things I was able to do athletically thirty years and fifty pounds ago.  The male ego is quirky and fragile. Sometimes, remembering what I was once capable of doing takes a little of the sting out of knowing what I can no longer do.  Other times, it makes it worse.  It just depends on what cup of coffee I’m on.  You see, in my youth, it was always about finishing first.  It was about winning.  My competive nature would never settle for less.  These days I can hardly stand losing an animated game of Wii Tennis with my wife.  In my youth, however, I used to run a 4:20 mile.  In my youth, I used polish off 3 miles in under 16 minutes with regularity.  On three prime occasions, I busted the 15 minute mark for three miles clocking in with times of 14:46, 14:48, and 14:52.   In my youth, I used to complete ten miles in just under an hour.  In my youth, I used to….   Well, you get the picture, right?  Now, I can’t even think that fast!  Father Time is undefeated, as they say, and the dreaded A.G.E. disease gets us all…eventually, gradually and relentlessly.  I must say, though, getting old is better than the alternative.

Around our neighborhood, I have a 2.1 mile course marked out.  Although we don’t use it much anymore, a couple of years ago, my wife and I walked and ran it regularly.  Our custom was to walk the course together once or twice and then I would run a final lap.  On one particular occasion it was quite hot.  Ninety six degrees of blazing Arizona sun, to be exact.  About half way through the first lap, my wife decided it was too hot to be out and headed back to the house after completing the round.  The “machismo” in me, on the other hand, decided “it’s a dry heat” and took off for my usual run.  Remember that thing I said about the male ego?

Plugging along under the hot Arizona sun, despite the heat (or maybe because of it), wisdom hit me square on the chin.  Joe, “It’s not about finishing first; it’s about finishing strong.”  “It’s not about being fast; it’s about being diligent… and discipline.”  “It’s all about effort and just finishing your course.”  “What good is competetive spirit if you don’t finish what you start?”  Shades of Tortoise and the Hare, you think?  Or, maybe this is just what old and slow men tell themselves to feel better?  But, once again, despite the heat, this is where the lesson hit me.

Isn’t this a lot like our journey as followers of Jesus?  It’s not so much about finishing first.  It’s just about finishing. Period. There is no first place in the race of faith.  There are only those who begin and finish and those who begin and don’t.  In an ordinary race, the prize goes to the runner who finishes first.  The same is not true, however, for those of us running this race of faith; the followers of Christ.  For us, the prize goes to everyone who finishes what they started.  Holy writ challenges the would-be followers of “The Way” to count the cost of discipleship, to take up their cross and to follow.  Jesus paid the entry fee so that, by His grace, we may participate.  But we, by faith in the One who did finish first, must each run our own race.  And, sometimes it gets hot.

I’m reminded of a Scripture…

1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (BBE)

“Do you not see that in a running competition all take part, but only one gets the reward? So let your minds be fixed on the reward. 25 And every man who takes part in the sports has self-control in all things. Now they do it to get a crown which is of this world, but we for an eternal crown.”

In this illustration from the biblical world of sports, I find the following formula; discipline + demonstration = decoration.  Running to obtain the prize will require the runner to discipline his lifestyle.  As such, he must refrain from activities that are detrimental to obtaining the prize.  In the life of a follower of Jesus, this discipline is represented by the development of Christ’s character…the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).  That discipline combined with open, daily, demonstration for all to see, brings glory to Father God as we become the “salt of the earth” and “light to the world” (Matthew 5:16). In an ordinary race the discipline of the athletes is demonstrated on race day…but only the winner gets the prize.  In life, the demonstration of Christ’s character takes place every day through the life of His followers…or, at least it should be so.  Then comes the decoration.  The decoration is the satisfaction of having finished with diligence and discipline the race that is set before us (1 Timothy 6:11-12; 2 Timothy 4:5-8).  The decoration is in knowing that we refused to quit; WE FINISHED OUR RACE!  It is in knowing that, as we demonstrated a disciplined lifestyle modeling the character of our Precious Savior, Jesus, others followed our example and joined the race.  “Follow me even as I follow Christ.”  The decoration is in knowing we have obtained the prize of God’s approval and will have received the crown that He alone can give.

I was recently inspired to create a poster for my life skills class.  The poster reads: “I am writing my success story.  This is just my rough draft.”  In other words, “The End” has not yet been stamped.  The conclusion is not settled.  There is still time for edits and revisions.  There is still time to keep-calm-and-finish-strong-129develop my character. In keeping with the race analogy, I have not yet crossed the finished line.  Neither have you.  Maybe you started like a rabbit and have now slowed  to a tortoise pace.  Maybe you have stumbled and fallen…been hurt.  Maybe you stopped running or have not yet even started to run.  Perhaps you are one who has chosen to run back toward the starting line…back to the life you used to live.  Whatever the case, if you are still breathing, the race is not over.  I always marvel at the fact that no matter how far it seems I have strayed from God, I cannot turn around without bumping into Him.  He is ever near…cheering the runners toward the PRIZE…regardless of how fast or slow you are running.  You see, it’s not how you start the race or how fast you run it that counts; it’s how you finish.  Finish strong, my friends…finish strong!

…Peace and Blessings…

~ joe

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