As I was walking and jogging yesterday Lord, my mind went to my friend, D. (Bless her family and her writing and her music, please.) She runs marathons sometimes. I was thinking of the story she told me about her first marathon. She trained for months. But in the middle of the actual race she thought she would never make it to the finish line. She did a little jogging and a lot of walking, she says.
Panting, groaning and moaning she kept putting one foot in front of the other. Each time she wanted to stop and collapse on the side of the road she thought about the finish line. She thought about her husband and kids, her mom and sister waiting there under that banner for her. She knew they were watching and waiting. They would be holding their breath as the stream of runners panted their way across the finish line.
They would be expecting her.
The last mile was agony. Especially when she realized that she was in last place. D. says she was on the verge of quitting when she stumbled around the last bend in the road. That's when she heard them.
"Come on, D. You can do it! You can make it!"
"Go, Mom. Go! You're almost there."
"Just a little farther, Honey. I know you can make it."
Through the sweat blurring her vision she saw them. They weren't waiting at the finish line; they were running toward her. Cheering her on. Jumping up and down. Applauding. Then running beside her on the side of the road. Encouraging her. Helping her. It didn't matter whether she was first or last to them. They just wanted her to do what she set out to do. To cross that finish line on her feet.
Then I started to cry, Lord. In the middle of my living room with the DVD blaring "Work that body!" and my legs pumping away I started crying.
Because I could hear them, too. I could see them stretching over the banister of heaven applauding and jumping up and down. Cheering me on.
"You can do it, Jean."
"You can make it, Mama. It's so wonderful here just like you told me it would be."
"We're all rooting for you, Jeannie. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You'll cross the finish line soon enough."
"We're waiting for you, big sister."
Daddy, Stephen, Kathy, Mickey, Granny and Grandaddy, Grandma Suzie and Grandpa Gillen, my baby brother I never met, my infant nephew, Poppo, RosaBelle, Bro. Riggins, Grandaddy Conway...
So many people I love and admire as Christians who finished the race ahead of me on this earth. They crossed God's finish line and are now in the grandstands cheering me on when each step is agony and my finish line seems so far away. Thank you, Father!
Victory is sweet, Little One. But your race isn't about winning. You've already won because My Son, Jesus, has won the victory for you at Calvary. You can't lose this race because you belong to Him. Your crown is waiting for you.
Like D.s marathon this race is about finishing. It's about joining the victory celebration that will last for all eternity. It's about making it up the hills and around the curves and over the country side of your life. And it's about doing it with grace and love and peace and hope and beauty of soul.
And you're right. Just like D. you're not running alone. We're watching and waiting to see you coming around that last bend in your life's road.
It's closer than you think.