One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in Hebrews 12:1-2 where the writer makes a clear description of what is necessary in order to run a good race in our life of faith. Other passages in Paul’s letters speak of this life of faith as a race as well. It is a metaphor packed with significant truths to follow.
This past weekend I got a fresh view of the passage as I watched our daughter run the Army 10 Miler in Washington DC. She would never call herself an athlete as she was growing up, but as a busy home schooling mother of four children she set a goal six years ago to run her first 5K race after helping her oldest son meet a physical education goal of running a mile. She achieved the goal and more races, longer races followed.
This year was not the first year she ran the Army 10 Miler. She ran the race with several friends in 2011, but due to injuries and scheduling this year she would be running a solo race as one of 35,000 runners. During her training for this race, she experienced several setbacks with injuries of her own as well.
Nevertheless, she tried to work through each one to be ready for race day. From hundreds of miles away, we heard about early morning runs alone that started in darkness before she would begin teaching her children for the day. Being a busy mom doesn’t always allow you to get the rest you need and your training time is limited. Even so, she persevered.
This race would test her character as other races had not because she did not run with friends to encourage, challenge, and help her keep at a consistent pace during the tough places on the course.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us others are observing how we run and have set examples, models, for us to buoy our courage. The long list of the faithful in Hebrews 11 lets us view some of those previous champions of old. The keys to succeeding at the race include getting rid of anything that gets in the way of running.
And before we move beyond that point, it’s sobering to realize what we each need to lay aside in order to accomplish the task. We set aside the “I don’t feel like it” and every excuse we can name. We set aside the habits that would make it difficult for us to run. That can include our own selfish desires; our pet sinful attitudes or habits that we never quite totally give up. It requires endurance that only comes by a persistent, daily practicing of the disciplines necessary to achieve the goal.
Most important of all, it requires keeping our eyes on Jesus who modeled focus, endurance, strength of character, and surrender to accomplish His purpose, His mission.
I had watched our daughter through months of practice and training. This past Sunday morning while we were still asleep, she slipped out of the house in the chilly darkness, took the Metro to downtown Washington DC, and joined the others waiting for the race to begin. She had done all she could to prepare. Now the test lay ahead to use all she had learned on all the other mornings over many months and focus on the goal that lay before her.
We, her family, were the witnesses standing along the street watching expectantly, praying supportively, and aware she ran solo in the crowd, but not alone. The One who has been her partner ran with her even as He had on all those other dark mornings when staying in bed would have been so much easier. She ran her own race. We cheered loudly as she passed us. Then we hurried to the finish line to meet her which actually took longer than it did for her to get there.
Her example brought me back to Hebrews and a challenge to seek the Lord about my own race and how well I am heeding the wise counsel written there. We may run together, but we each have our own race set before us.
How are you running?