My girls just started running on their school's cross-country team. This is their first venture into the world of endurance racing. There are so many lessons to be learned from a sport that requires a person to endure suffering for the promise of a prize. This discipline of running for an extended period of time, during which your physical body goes through stages of agony, pain, suffering, as well as, bursts of energy and times of euphoria Then at the end of it all comes joy.
Now as a proud runner myself, raised in a family of runners thanks to my dad, I am thrilled to see both my girls embrace this opportunity. This might just be the only sport they get the chance to participate in for the remainder of the 2020 year, so for them to, without hesitation, jump at the chance to join the team is a BIG win, for sure. A big reason for their initial enthusiasm was to finally be able to do an extracurricular activity with other actual human beings. Then, at the first practice, they found out just what cross-country actually involved. My youngest, Caitlin, said to me after the first practice "dad, this is not what I thought cross-country was. All we did was run a long way, for a long time". Fearing that she might follow that up with, "I don't want to continue", I quickly told her that it is actually a race and the team who gets the most points by running the fastest, wins. Well, that was all she needed to continue...the promise of a prize.
As I watched my girls run their first race, I saw waves of many emotions and physical experiences all over their faces. Then at the finish line, there it was...the joy of completing what they had set out to accomplish. Finishing the race. On the smallest of scales I could see a small glimpse of what the bible explains of Jesus' journey to and through the cross "...for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross."
I am captivated by the thought that it is not just the ending I am seeking but the pacing and appreciation of the process. To fully experience the whole of the race and not just numb myself in order to cross the line. Within the actual race of this life their are too many amazing experiences along with extreme difficulties to embrace, but that is exactly what makes up a wonderful life. To fully live, love, and endure is not passive at all, but rather the opposite, it is aggressive. It is a life propelled by a destiny that isn't only accessible at the end of the race, but is present in the person of Jesus throughout every single phase. Our joy to endure is the presence of Him in our now and He walks, runs, and sprints along with us every step of the way. The only question is whether I choose to acknowledge Him and take comfort in His strength or not. He is with me either way, but the journey is so much more fun when it is done in relationship with the ultimate travel companion.