Saturday, February 1, 2014

Running the Race

Driving downtown to begin the Double Bridge 15K Run, the Chris August song, I’m Gonna Sing, began to play. Listening to the words of the song, a particular verse stood out to me.

I’m gonna run
Like I’ve been set free

I played the song over and over again and sang along as those words became my prayer and my commitment.

Just days before, I was feeling completely unprepared mentally, emotionally and physically. As these feelings came over me, I remembered a Bible study leader who spoke of the Hebrews Hall of Faith, those men and women of the Bible who in Hebrews chapter 11 are called out as ones who ran the race before them, continuing to believe God, finishing their race well and entering the Holy Kingdom. She asked us to imagine these people on a runway, but let’s not think of it as fashion week in NYC. They were not perfectly adorned with the finest clothing, professional hair styling and make-up artistry. No, they had endured life’s hard struggles, long waits, sacrifices, treacherous journeys, were mocked, ridiculed, beaten and worn…coming down the runway they would be dirty, limping and bruised. Yet, by faith…it didn’t matter what they looked like or how they held their form. They simply kept believing and going forward and praise God they finished the race. I found comfort in this, and quit being so hard on myself, acknowledging that my main goal for this day was simply to finish the race, just cross the finish line.

The night before the race, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dr. George Grant on The Theology of Running. During the talk he pointed directly to the word of God encouraging us to keep running, to feel the pleasure of God, to throw off what hinders, to stay alert, keep our zeal and to take care of the things of The Lord. Returning home, I was encouraged and uplifted with confidence that this would be the day the Lord had made and that I would run the race marked out for me.

Little did I know that I would not sleep at all that night…I tossed and turned, prayed, journaled, then repeated it all again. Up at 5:00 a.m., well-fed, dressed and ready as I was going to be, I drove along singing…I’m gonna run, Like I’ve been set free…these words were life for me as I joined my sister-in-law at the start line. With a bang we were off along the streets of Downtown Pensacola making our way to the 3 Mile Bridge. I was filled with a renewed joy and confidence in this run, literally stomping on manholes (something that had made me literally fall on my face once before) thinking, “I’ve been here before and that is not going to trip me up again.”

Having run this race the previous two years, I was aware of the hills along the way and paced myself to be ready when the first incline began. The sun had made its brilliant debut and was shining brightly above, glistening on the gulf. Reaching the highest peak of the first bridge was worth the climb. Looking out ahead of me, seeing the remainder of the bridge to run, I was invigorated and energized. I felt strong and capable of making it across the bridge. Throughout the race there were times when the sun was so bright that I could not see what was very far ahead, I could only look out a few steps in front of me. Sometimes the light of Christ shines so brightly in our lives that we can’t see what is in the future, only the next few steps in front of us. We have to keep moving forward in faith to reach the finish line, trusting that what lies ahead, is for our good and His glory and is part of His plan.

Exiting the 3 Mile Bridge, I ran with vigor because I knew that there would be someone cheering me on in Gulf Breeze. My parents were running the 5k portion of the race (Yay! Their first official 5k) and they along with the other runners, would be at the start line cheering us on as we ran. There is nothing more encouraging than knowing that someone is watching and rooting for you.  

In the last two miles of the race there are two steep hills. Making my way up the first hill, the Meredith Andrews song, Worth It All, began to play on my iphone.

All I am Lord here before you
Reaching out for more
You’re the promise never failing
You are my reward,
Jesus, You are my reward

I let go of all I have just to have all of You
And no matter what the cost I will follow You
Jesus everything I’ve lost I have found in You
When I finally reach the end I’ll say
You are worth it all

These are generally two very difficult portions of the run, but I had this great reminder to let go and give it all to God. How I finished was in His hands. I looked up and saw the Bob Sikes Bridge ahead, the highest height to climb in this race followed by the last mile of the race. Reaching the foot of this bridge I had two options: a.) quit b.) keep going, see the beauty of reaching the top and finally finishing the race. I opted for choice B and placed one foot in front of the other, keeping my thoughts on the feeling of exhilaration that awaited at the top of the hill and the joy of crossing the finish line soon after. No words can describe the view of the sun still shining brightly, the glimmering water and the beachscape. Coming down the steep hill is tricky because you’ve just hit this really great high and want to let the momentum take you as fast as possible, but if you do that, you will run out of steam before reaching the finish. I kept my focus and found a place of balance between the momentum and holding back just enough to make it all the way across that finish line.

About one-tenth of a mile or so from the finish, I began to hear the names of those who were finishing before me. I thought, “this is heaven”, knowing that all of us runners are in the same race, with the same goal, each one going at the best pace for him or her to finish well, we had endured the bit of wind, the hills, the turns the brightness of the sun, the blinding reflection of the sun on the water and had finished the race. One day, we will cross the finish line of life and there we will be surrounded by those who have gone before, they’re cheering us on even now as we continue to place one foot in front of the other.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

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