I’d never been a runner until about five years ago.
I was in Chicago visiting a good friend and she and her roommates were signed up to run a 5K downtown. The thought of running 3.1 miles nonstop seemed impossible, but I signed up so I could join them… and also because it was a themed run where everyone was going to run in their bathing suits or undies and I thought that was hilarious. We saw some weird stuff that day.
Prior to our run, I had no training. I’m naturally athletic, so I suppose I had that going for me, but in terms of conditioning, I had no build up to this undie race day. Luckily, none of us took the undie run too seriously and I was able to complete the race alongside my friends.
Finishing my first 5K made me feel like I was on top of the world! If you’ve ever run a race, or done something you thought you never could, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I felt like my entire being was smiling with pride.
Since that day, I’ve run multiple half marathons and one full (26.2 miles). Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever predicted that I would be able to call myself a marathoner. And to be honest, I still struggle with doing so.
I struggle with the notion that I’m a marathoner because I don’t feel like I deserve the title.
Although I crossed the finish line of that 26.2 mile race, I didn’t complete the race in the way in which I envisioned I would. At mile 15 that day I developed severe cramping in my legs. Whether it was improper conditioning, salt imbalance, nutrition, simply a bad running day, or a weakness in my mental game, the result was that I needed to walk in order to move forward.
How often is that notion true in our lives? Whether we’re running a foot race or proceeding through the muck and mire of our life and calling, it’s hard to have to walk when you thought that you were going to be able to run. It’s frustrating to be held back and passed by others. It’s embarrassing to struggle, most especially when onlookers cannot distinguish what may be holding you back and it’s disappointing when our plans don’t turn out how our hearts have hoped.
I would not have finished the race had it not been for my teammate who walked alongside me those remaining 11.2 miles.
Even though she was having a great running day and would have PR’d (made a personal record), she made the sacrificial choice to stay with me, honoring our commitment to finish together.
Her unflinching and unwavering love for me as a friend and teammate in that moment was almost too much to bear. Knowing I was holding her back made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I told her multiple times to leave me, to run ahead and finish the race strong.
Not only did she refuse, but she didn’t let me fade into the sidelines and hide from the shame that I felt. We speed-walked tall and proud down the middle of those streets together and when the finish line was in view, I mustered all my strength and focus to run and finish strong by her side.
My friend was Jesus to me that day. I would not have become a marathoner without her.
The scripture tells us that the love of our Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unwavering. Despite all the ways in which we, since the very beginning, have fallen to the influences of sin, God does not give up on us. God does not revoke his commitment to us when we do not measure up, but instead chooses time and time again to love us. God loved us so much, in fact, that despite all our wrong-turns and giving-ups he came down to live with us and die on our behalf. God himself made right the covenant He established with us so that we may once again be able to finish the race laid out for us toward eternal life in communion with Him.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
May we all be reminded of our Father’s love today. For although we are not deserving of the title to be His heirs, His love makes it possible. We would not have the hope that we have without him. Alone, we are left to our own devices, but together, we are capable of so much more.
My friend may have helped me become a marathoner that day, but her unfailing love reminded me that my marathoner title pails in comparison to my title and place as a beloved daughter of God.