I’ve been running a marathon—no, not that kind (ha, ha: me run?😆) but rather a long, winding course that started late this summer and ends in just hours.
Todd’s been on active duty orders for almost a year, deployed overseas for the last seven months, and is headed home soon—I never made a countdown because the days seemed either too long and overwhelmed me, or passing too quickly and it strained me for all the “to-do’s” that I never got done (and pounds that I never dropped, dangit).
As Providence would arrange it, my neighbor-friend Jody and I signed up for an 8K race months ago long before I knew Todd’s return date. We’ve been walking the neighborhood once a week for “training” but really for chatting, praying, and moral support for the real stuff of life.
She’s the same neighbor who rallied our entire block to have meals delivered to my family once a week for the entirety of Todd’s overseas deployment. If you only knew how many times I wept from the mercy that arrived on my doorstep every time the kids and I needed an extra helping of grace. Our simple-church, family, and community of friends were like the 8K volunteers holding out cold cups of hydration for runners as they race by. A drop of water does wonders for the weary.
So here comes our 8K and I injured my foot (showing off at an old school skating rink, of course). I could forfeit, I could cop out, I could leave Jody to race alone, but she grabbed my race number and picked me up Sunday morning. We were in the corral about to start the 8K and I’m celebrating the half-marathoners as they trot, stumble, jog, and walk across their finish line, when I realized that this silly walk Jody and I signed up for was screaming the metaphor of the last several months: I’m five miles from my finish line and the crowd of witnesses has energized me to not just walk, but run.
Listen: I don’t run. I have asthma and growing up my P.E. coaches always gave me permission to walk the backstops to catch my breath or puff my inhaler. But with Jody beside me and the end in sight, we started with a jog, walked a mile, ran another, and crossed the halfway mark unashamedly singing, 🎶Whoa! We’re halfway there, whoa-oh, livin on a prayer! Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear, whoa-oh, livin on a prayer!🎶 Yes, all those prayers y’all prayed and loving thoughts y’all shared that kept my feet moving (even at my fumbly tortoise pace)!
Along this metaphorical course were myriad friends and family who cheered us on, ran with me, limped with me, stopped for a swig with me, and challenged me to put my eyes up and keep running. I’m teary-eyed recounting the ways so many of you have supported us along the way and shared our burdens and joys as we approach the finish line.
And y’all, here’s the whole course from a bird’s eye, without exaggerating or uber-spiritualizing: I’ve only made it this far in my race because of the nearness and kindness of God who loves me despite my awful running gait and my wimpy faith. Jesus is my strength, my energy, and my soft place to land after a hard run. He’s real and I know this all the more because I had to run a race I wasn’t fit for. He’s everything to me. And he got me through this short race to the finish line, legs lurching and lungs screaming.
Late tonight, my airplane lands on the west coast and I’ll see my husband who I love with all of me and have missed terribly. This deployment was a tough course and was easily the hardest year as a mother that I’ve had yet. Tonight I get to run across the terminal and be with my life partner and best friend, and we’ll finally get back to running side by side to Jesus our true prize…
…okay maybe him running and me rollerblading because let’s be frank: as beautiful as the metaphor is, running sucks!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”
2 Timothy 4:7-8