July 12, 2009
WHEN THE MARATHON BECOMES A SPRINT
This week I’ve actually loved watching TV. That’s because I’ve been able to watch Le Tour de France focusing on the incredible comeback of Lance Armstrong - cancer survivor, seven time “Tour” winner and presently in third place by 8 seconds. He’s become the ruler of the Tour - regardless of how people feel about him or how he lives his life outside of the race.
I was a cyclist once: at a time when girls were not known for owning or even riding ten speed bikes, the only backpacks available were olive green and said “Boy Scouts of America” on them and “bike” helmets were actually stripped hockey helmets.
But I’ve never stopped following cycling and Le Tour de France has been one of my favorite events for years. Today I was impressed by two wonderful aspects of this race - the fantastic crowds and the finish of each of the 21 stages. Because of the way the Tour is set up a cyclist could win the entire race even though they’ve never won a single stage. Riders ride over 2100 in three weeks and in 21 stages. that means a lot of 100-mile days. But some of these stages end in a sprint - AFTER riding close to or more than 100 miles in the mountains.
To me this athletic event comes the closest to emulating a well lived life. It is the perfect combination of ups and downs, has marathon miles but with occasional sprints in the middle and end, a crowd of supporters cheering you on and a great finish. In fact, to me it almost sounds like:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us... Hebrews 12:1
When I watched the Tour yesterday I was amazed at the lines of fans standing on the road waving flags at all the riders as they went by and my first thought was - how good that must feel to have that kind of support. Then I realized that I, too, have those “standing along the road” as I go by and I have those already in Heaven who are cheering me on, so to speak.
But for me the hard part is when the last two miles suddenly becomes a sprint after I’ve been riding for nearly 100 miles. I am amazed as those riders stand up in their pedals and ride as if they haven’t been riding at all. But in a way that is where I feel I am in my own life. It feels as though I have been riding along, going up and down the mountains, enjoying the scenery, staying ahead of the crowd and cherishing the coasting down hill and suddenly I’m being asked to sprint to the finish.
How this translates into my “real” life is because it seems like the days that seem shorter and shorter, that months fly by much quicker and the finish line is coming more into view. And so I feel as though I am being faced with the decision of how to respond to the call to “breakaway - now!” that I hear so clearly in my ear. It’s like my life is no longer measured in years but months and my daily activities are measured by the number of steps I can take.
This is not the first time I have been in “this” place. I was extremely sick while in college but for reasons that really weren’t well thought out or even reasonable my husband at the time and I decided to hide my illness from everyone on campus. They had no idea of the pain I was in, all the meds I was depending on or that the doctor’s weren’t sure I would survive. But because my life was clearly on a different course than those around me I found myself irritated at the trivial complaints and immature priorities of my friends. I no longer wanted to spend time talking about things I thought were insignificant compared to eternal values.
Needless to say I survived that year and the next 35 years but it certainly has been full of mountain climbs and downhill coasts with a few rest days in between. And now, unless God miraculously intervenes (which I DO believe He is capable of doing) I am looking at the finish line. I just don’t know exactly how close it may be. But no matter how far or close I am very aware of it’s existence.
But what I am also very aware of is that going through the “Finish Line” is just that - going through. And I have been forced to acknowledge that I’m at a new stage in this race called life and I can hardly stand the thought of wasting a single moment of this sprint towards its end. No matter how close or distant that finish line is I want to make every single day significant and purposeful.
But it shouldn’t take a close encounter with death to motivate anyone to change their priorities and decide to make every day of this life matter. I came across the following quote this last week:
You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. Shira Tehrani
It doesn’t take much to realize that events we have been taught would begin happening in the “end days” are quickly taking place all around us. Here in Texas there have been seven earthquakes in the last two months and to me that is fairly surprising to me. A look at other countries, our own government and the growing depravity of men’s hearts should be a huge indicator as to the times in which we are living.
The bottom line is that there is a “finish line” for every one of us because life as we know it on this earth will one day come to an end whether or not we have “crossed over” into eternity before that end takes place. CAn I challenge you now to take inventory of your life and its priorities? Do your passions have eternal value? Does what you find your mind bring strength to your life’s purposes? Is what you are doing today what you will be glad you’ve done if you lose the ability to do anything tomorrow?
I’ve done my share of marathons in this life and now it’s time to switch gears into the final sprint. Even though it has come years earlier than I ever expected I don’t want to miss out and be overtaken by the “pack” that is closing in behind me. And even if I don’t win the stage I want to finish doing my best - not for myself but for the One who has given me life in the first place. A cyclist rides for himself but with loyalty to his team and their owner. I want my race to honor the team who has committed to ride with me and my “Owner.”
The sentence in Hebrews 12 finishes with this...
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. Hebrews 12: 2,3
There is One who has crossed the “finish line” before me and has tasted death on my behalf. And then He became the “resurrection from the dead” also on my behalf. If I keep my eyes on Him as I finish this race I will finish the race with honor and humility. And I will be able to say along with the Apostle Paul...
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: II Timothy 4:7
It is my hope to not only finish my course well but to challenge everyone around me to finish well as well - whenever that “finish line” might be. I’ve just been blessed with a hint of that “finish line” and the motivation to sprint towards it honorably.
From the heart,