"…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2
I joined the 8th grade track team to see more of my girlfriend. I was not a runner, and my first practice ended with losing my lunch in the locker room.
But my first race . . . was even worse.
I ran the mile, four laps around the track. As that inaugural race began, I was pleasantly surprised to discover myself in the middle of the pack. I found my pace and settled in, almost enjoying myself.
Seven minutes later, I hit the last straightaway and went into a sprint. I kicked hard across the finish line and collapsed into the grass, exhausted but pleased with the race I had run.
Then two of my teammates came over. "What are you doing?" they asked, "You only ran three laps!"
With nothing left to give, I picked myself up and ambled another 400 meters back to my spot on the ground, humiliated. It was a long last lap, but I finished my race.
I'm less comfortable than the author of Hebrews with comparing my struggles to those of Jesus as he faced crucifixion, but I do think of that race sometimes.
When I can't seem to catch a break. When I get through one challenge only to find an even larger one on the other side. When I am completely empty and asked to give a little bit more.
How will I get up and face another day? Where will the energy come from, to run another lap? Maybe it will be from the one who said, "It is finished," and didn't really mean it.
Pioneer and perfecter, carry me through.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.