Tuesday, April 3, 2012

eye on the prize

It’s mile 11. My shirt is soaked in sweat and is now stuck to my back. I am pretty sure a blister is forming on my left foot, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t give for a glass of water. Every, single part of my body aches. And, the only thought inside of my head repeats over and over again: Why am I doing this?

I’ve always loved running. This irrational love probably comes from my daddy, who—ever since I can remember—has gotten up at 5:30 a.m. every other morning for a four-mile run. When I was younger, I used to leave him in the dust at the first bend in the road. Now that I am “old” and “broken,” I just pray his 50-year-old self won’t pass me by.

Back in that day, when my body was 30 pounds lighter and didn’t ache from shin splints and plantar fasciitis, I also loved it for the competition. During track and field meets, I volunteered for the mile and two-mile races. I knew I would never be fast enough to win at shorter distances, but I was mentally tough enough to fight through the longer races. Once upon a time, that determination won me several district titles and fourth place in the state meet.

But now that my six-minute pace has slowly but surely grown to nine minutes, it’s about more than just tradition or competition. It’s about the finish.

When the pavement runs out and you have to run in the dirt, it’s about the finish. When the clouds shift and the sun beats on your back, it’s about the finish. When the level path turns into a steep hill, it’s about the finish. When you are so tired and you don’t think you can take another step, it’s about the finish.

Running is my perfect metaphor for life. 

When homework piles up on the prettiest spring day, it’s like running in the dirt. When I mess up and fall into temptation, it’s like the sun beating on my back. When life throws me a curveball—cancer, failure, death—it’s like running up a steep hill. And those few times when everything caves in and I don’t feel like I’m going to make it through another day, it’s like my legs have reached exhaustion.

It’s during these times I have to remember: It’s all about the finish.

Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Saturday I pressed on to reach the end of my first half marathon. It was 13.1 miles of giant hills, burning heat and the most encouragement I have ever received in my life. As I crossed the finish line, a medal was placed around my neck, acknowledging my accomplishment.

Grabbing some high fives just steps away from my 13.1 mile finish!
It only took two hours, ten minutes and 30 seconds (right at my goal).
As proud as I was of that little hunk of metal on a string, it is nothing compared to the heavenly prize that awaits me in eternity. When I’m running through life and I meet a killer hill, it’s this prize that needs to be in the front of my mind. I take each step and live each day knowing I have a higher calling in Christ Jesus.

So it’s mile 11. It’s your third test in two days. It’s the temptation that’s almost too much to bear. It’s a bad diagnosis from your doctor. Keep your eye on the heavenly prize.

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