In my first post I mentioned a couple things that had come to me that would’ve made good blog posts—the problem being I didn’t have a blog. This is one of them. It has been a Facebook note since its conception in October 2010, and seeing as I haven’t posted here in a while, I decided it was time to promote it to a real blog post. I’ve resisted the urge to make any changes, so here it is in its original, unaltered, state. I also will take this chance to say I have a couple ideas bouncing around in my head for new posts. Maybe once they’ve developed further I’ll get something original up here again.
First, I’ll start with a disclaimer: this analogy, like any analogy, is not perfect. If you take it too far it’ll break down before long. It is probably riddled with even more discrepancies than I’m aware of. It is meant only to help illustrate one facet of the truth, not cover all the bases. With that said, here goes:
I love track and field. Especially victory (who doesn’t?) This morning I was remembering one of the awesomest races I ever ran: Spring 2010, the 800m. (Before I go any farther, another disclaimer. I don’t mean to brag—in fact, this probably was the only race I ever got first place in, relays aside. I’m just using the story to make my point.) The whistle blew and we all launched across the line. Immediately everyone began to merge into the inside lane. I found a comfortable pace close behind the guy in the lead—from ISOI or LAS, I don’t remember which—where I could wait for an opportunity to overtake him. Early in the second lap my chance came, when he started to run out of steam. I started slowly picking up my pace, and passed him at 600m with a little burst of speed, just as we were coming onto that last bend. I kept increasing speed on that curve (something I don’t normally do) and when I hit that last 100m stretch I kicked into a dead sprint for the finish line.
I still remember, even though I was flying down this track, there was a moment where I felt almost frozen in time. At that point I knew I was on my way to victory. There was no way the other guy was catching up to me now. And so I could close my eyes, throw my head back, and smile, and savor the moment—enjoy the wind on my face, the 90-degree sun beating down on me, the cheering, the announcer saying something about MCS and a strong finish, the adrenaline pumping through me, but most of all just running for the pure enjoyment of running the race, sprinting like my life depended on it, fixing my gaze on the finish line and pouring everything I had left in me into reaching it, knowing that in moments it would be over and I would be celebrating victory on the other side of the finish line, and even though I was more cramped than I had ever been before or have been since, it would be totally worth it.
And that image is exactly what it’s like to run the Christian life.
I’m certainly not the first to compare life to a race. Paul did a lot. Countless times he explicitly calls it a race; other times he alludes to it, for instance, in talking about a “victor’s crown”—the laurel wreath the champion of a race would receive in Paul’s day (a tradition revived at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.) As a runner myself, I’ve long thought of life as a race. So this analogy is more a matter of thinking about just what that race looks like.
Say you’re really out of shape. And massively obese. Like, 800 pounds and you’ve never run more than 10 yards in your life. And you suddenly find yourself in this race—not cause you signed up for it but because everyone who’s ever lived has to run this race. And it’s not a sprint either—it’s more like a marathon. And just to make things worse you’re weighed down by all kinds of crap that you just don’t want to get rid of even though it’s three times as heavy as you are and it keeps getting under your feet and wrapped around your legs and in your face. But you think you like all this stuff so you’re trying to run the race with it. Needless to say, you’re miles behind everyone else.
Then this dude comes up on your side (and you’re thinking, “What, there’s actually someone still behind me?!”) He offers to carry your stuff. You suddenly realize this lugging-all-your-junk-along thing isn’t working, so you begin to hand it all over. He takes all your stuff on his own back, and then he surprises you even more—he offers to give you a piggyback. (“Is that even allowed?” you wonder.) With great difficulty you try to climb onto his back. He reaches over his shoulder with a free hand and pulls you aboard. You notice his hand—both hands actually—is scarred. He tells you, “I had a brush with a tree earlier, in coming to help you.”
No sooner are you on his back, he takes off down the road, overtaking everyone, who you now notice are all carrying baggage of their own. When he is safely in the lead he puts you back down. You realize that suddenly you aren’t overweight anymore. Your legs are stronger. Your flip-flops have been replaced with the best running shoes you’ve ever seen. The guy then says to you, “You can see the finish line from here. I’ve given you everything you need to win this race. I’m going there now, and I’ll be waiting for you there. Give it your all.”
In a flash he takes off, and you’re left jogging along. You glance over your shoulder, see the others slowly closing the gap. As you look ahead to the finish line, you notice there’s a massive crowd on the sidelines, cheering your name. The dude’s standing there at the finish line, also cheering you on. He yells, “Come on man! I authored and perfected this race, and now I’ve run it. I’ve taken the hits for you. Now run this race; your life depends on it!” You’re approaching the last stretch of the race, and suddenly it all clicks. You kick into a dead sprint for that finish line.
This is where we are right now. We’re in the lead, approaching that finish line faster than ever. Even though the race isn’t over yet, we know victory is ours, thanks to Jesus. So we let out a smile and run, enjoying the moment and running with purpose in every step, towards that goal. Jesus is waiting at the finish line, calling our name and cheering us on, and we fix our eyes on Him and give everything in the last stretch of this race. We’re cramping up like never before, but we’re determined to reach the end and we’re pouring every last drop of energy into reaching that end, and we know that in moments we will be celebrating victory on the other side of the finish line, and unlike a physical race, the cramps and pain and gasping for air will be over forever. So let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.