“I consider my life worth nothing to me;
my only aim is to finish the race
and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—
the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
I’m not a runner. I may have gone through a short stint a couple years ago where I gave it a try, but it’s quite arduous and painful… so let’s just be doubly honest here, I am not and never shall be a runner. And yet as image-bearers of the Creator, we all do run ~ He is the one that determines and establishes our every step (Proverbs 16:9), He is the one that prepared our good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Each step I take is of Him, for Him, by Him, through Him. Some of us run races faster than others (ahem, remember I’m just a walker?).
But I know what it is to run.
I recognize various parts of the race when I see others racing.
I can see the difference between the sprint, the endurance lap, the uphill grind, the downhill blitz.
Known as an encourager, I guess you could say I know something about standing along the sidelines and cheering others on.
And have you noticed that the beginning and ends of the race are where the most stands are filled?
So much energy and exultation happens when the race begins.
In the middle, when things seem smooth and easy, sometimes there are stretches where there is nobody cheering; simply the occasional medic or someone handing you a water bottle. At other points in the middle when the hills are steep or the terrain dangerous, there may be more people gathering around to make sure you survive the toil and they cheer for you as you make each stride.
But it’s at the end of the race, in that final lap, where the cheering and rejoicing and clapping is most obvious. Even moreso than the energy expended at the outset. It is then, at the end, when you will see so much egging on, encouraging shouts, jumping up and down with loud exults, coming into downright cacophony nearing the finish line.
“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 the throne of God.”
My children and I have been spending hours every week at the elderly care home where my grandpa lives. So many of these people are finishing the ends of their races without coaches and cheerleaders. We have even semi-adopted two older men there who are bedridden, and we bring joy to them as they continue on these laps near the ends of their races.
But recently it is Grandpa himself who has needed the cheerleaders amping up. For him, the final lap has begun. The finish line is getting closer. It can be so tempting to plop myself down along the sideline and just bury my head in my arms. I don’t have the best relationship with grief, I have probably a good bit of PTSD associated with it in fact.
This is not the time, though, for me to take a breather and leave my faithful runner alone on the path.
This is the time to cheer him on the most.
He’s almost there! He’s almost finished! That fullness of joy is nearly within his grasp!
“You make known to me the path of life.
In Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
So here I sit, here I stand, here I’ll commit to staying ~ cheering on my grandpa as he rounds the final bend in these final laps. He has run with endurance. The finish line is in sight. His faith will be perfected, it will become sight, and soon he will see King Jesus face to face.
Grandpa! You’re almost there!
I may cling to your weary, wrinkly hand with all my might right now,
but I would not ask your soul to tarry.
You have lived well. You have run with grace.
We will rejoice with you when you step at last
into the victory lap, joining the cloud of witnesses across the finish line.