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Sunday, May 07, 2006

I Can't Believe I Ran the Whole Thing


Last weekend, I ran my first marathon; the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. I wish I could explain the feeling of finally crossing the finish line after many months, and seemingly innumerable hours, of training. It didn't matter to me that my knee completely went out on me at the 11 mile mark. It didn't matter that I finished a whole hour longer than I had planned. At that point, it just mattered that I finished.

My knee trouble didn't appear before that day, so it was quite a mystery when it started tightening up on me around mile 6. By the split where the marathon runners went one way, and the half-marathoners went the other, I could hardly walk. The more I stretched, the worse it got. The conflict inside my mind and heart grew with every painful step. I finally told my buddy, David Hornsby, "You better go on, I don't know that I will be able to finish." Reluctantly, he finally went ahead with best wishes, after he generously spared a couple of his Advils.

Think about it. You plug away, working toward a seemingly unattainable goal. You build yourself up with expectation to the big day when your preparation will finally be tested, only to be sitting less than half way to the finish line deciding how you are going to explain your failure.

That's exactly where I sat. Right there at mile 11, watching the other runners happily jog by toward their long anticipated goal. I told the Lord, "If you have something to teach me in this, I will accept that, but I REALLY do want to finish this race."

Then something clicked. I got up and started hobbling forward, pain with every step, wondering how in the world I was going to make it another 15.2 miles. I sped up slowly. My knee loosened up. I told myself, "If you can make it to 18 miles, you've got this thing." I was flat determined to finish, no matter what it took. At that point, I would have crawled to the finish line if necessary.

Next thing I knew, I crossed the finish line. I hadn't reached it in the exact way I expected, nor in the time I had predicted. Nevertheless, I finished. A little sore, a little beaten, a lot hungry, even more thirsty, and absolutely ecstatic.

Funny thing is, the Lord did use this experience to teach me a lesson. Thankfully, it was a much different lesson than I thought I was going to learn.

There have been times in recent months that I have completely felt like giving up on some things. Just like mile 11, I have gotten precariously close to turning around, finding the medical tent, and hitching a ride off the course. So, who said life would be without pain, or stress, or life's unpredictable difficulties? Only those who live in some alternate reality. Sometimes you just have to push through. You don't know how long the pain is going to last. You have no clue what the journey will look like. You just know that you have to keep going, and trust that it is all for your best. You have to finish strong.

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it." (1 Cor. 9:24, NKJV)

I, for one, want to win the prize. There's no way I'll win the prize for the marathon (bum knee and all), but there is an eternal prize to obtain. Should I put in any less training, or have any less determination in the spiritual realm than on the race course? The lesson I learned that day is that giving up is just not an option. I simply can't give up on the Man who has never given up on me.
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