I was just thinking about the 1/2 marathon that I competed in last October. When I think back to it, I still wonder how I ever made it across the finish line. I decided about one month before the race that I was going to attempt it. I am still not sure what I was thinking when I said yes. First of all, I was a runner in high school, but the longest I enjoyed running was 100 meters. I rarely had to run more than 1 mile. . .and this race was 13.1. Most "real" runners, (I do not categorize myself as one), train for months for a race. I wasn't planning on being competitive, but I did want to cross the finish line.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
It may be the competitor in me, but I love the verses of scripture that refer to faith as a race. Maybe it is because I feel like my faith journey is a long distance race. So far it has been a lot like my 1/2 marathon experience. I went into the 1/2 marathon with a confidence that came from, well, I am not sure where it came from. When I woke up the morning of the race I was excited, my adrenaline was pumping, I couldn't wait to get started. Then I started the race running. It was exhilarating. I was in a pack of hundreds of other runners. It didn't take long for the pack to spread itself apart. The really strong runners took off at their runner pace and were out of my sight very quickly. I was still feeling pretty good and then I saw the first hill. I had no idea how I was going to get up that hill. I was slow, but I did get up it. And then, I got to run down the hill, it was wonderful. I got a little of my energy back and I thought, okay, no problem, I can do this. All of this was in the first two miles. . .
Then, up in front of me loomed a hill, no a mountain, (well that is what it felt like). I told myself there is no way I am going to make it to the top of that hill. I was almost crawling up this hill. I was telling myself that I just wanted to quit. I did not train for this race, WHAT WAS I THINKING! Then as I was just about to quit a man said over a megaphone. It is all downhill from here. (He was exaggerating a little). It wasn't exactly downhill, it just wasn't any more giant hills. I kept going , my body ached and I wanted to quit, but I didn't quit. I was moving really slow and the last half was mostly a walk, but I kept going.
About 1/2 mile from the finish line I told myself I was going to cross that finish line running. I didn't know where the strength was going to come from, but I had accomplished something that I never thought was possible and I was not going to cross the finish line looking defeated. I was going to cross the finish line a winner (even if no one else thought I was). It was amazing. Everyone that finished the race got a really cool medal immediately put around their neck. People were at the finish line cheering everyone in. They really treated everyone like winners.
My faith journey has been a lot like this 1/2 marathon experience. When I entered into a personal relationship with Christ I was on fire. My faith was new and exciting. I was full of energy for the Lord. I wanted to tell everyone about this wonderful thing I had discovered. I wanted everyone to be on my journey. But, as I started to grow closer to God, I knew that no one could run the race for me. It was my journey.
I would hit a bump, like the first hill I encountered in my race and it felt like I wouldn't get to the top, but I did and then life was great I was gliding downhill. There were times that I stood in front of what felt like a mountain. But I trusted in God and I would know that he was going to get me over that mountain.
I think about that finish line and how everyone that crossed it was treated like a winner. I think that in heaven, everyone that has accepted Christ and endured the race will be a winner. I learned a very important lesson in my race. To be effective in the race, a person has to train. You have to be disciplined to be a competitor. You can't just know what it takes to run the race and be successful. I did finish the race and it was a huge accomplishment for me. However, how much more satisfying will it be to do it again after I have trained for it.
In my faith journey I have learned that I have to spend time studying my Bible, spending time in prayer and sharing my faith with others. I have to be bold, when I need to be bold and silent when I need to be silent. It takes work, I will face mountains. I will want to give up. But I have to keep my eyes on the ultimate prize.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 1 Timothy 4:7-8