As the name of my blog suggests, I used to be a marathon runner. This discipline taught me much about life and prepared me for the greatest physical battle that I would ever face. While I sometimes felt weak and weary, marathons strengthened me with visible lessons of the seasons of my life. Several months ago I enjoyed some time with my nephew, Adam (adamhendrix.com), who recently ran his first marathon. We were like two teenage girls gabbing about dreamy vampires, as we each shared our stories of endurance training and marathon experiences. As we visited, the only time either one of our eyes welled with tears was when we recounted our finishes. Above all the adrenaline-igniting starts and mind-games to keep the focus, the finish is what it's all about. Hearing cheering friends and family. High-fiving strangers. Cramping so severely we walked like Frankenstein, but laughing and smiling almost in spite of the pain. The finish was beautiful. The finish was perfect.
The Bible talks about the finish. Hebrews 12:1-2a says, "Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross" (bold added by me!)
The start of a marathon is easy, just as most of our lives. The start is about jet fly-overs, national anthems, and nervous chatter of strangers. I have begun marathons and run parts of the races with the Blues Brothers, Indian Princesses, Lady Liberty and even barefoot elves. But somewhere along the way in the race, all of these characters seem to disappear. Most of us began life with little problems, pain or trouble. The start is relatively easy.
Somewhere after mile 10, the grind begins. You begin to see runners on the curb and the pain increases in intensity. Questions begin to surface, "Why am I doing this? Is this really worth the pain?" The excitement and laughter, along with The Blues Brothers, Indian Princesses, Lady Liberty, and barefoot elves, are gone. In November of 2008, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The next few months of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy began the grind. During the pain and depression of the grind, what keeps you running? For a season, it's the crowd or the witnesses. In a marathon, it's the strangers who call out your name, the musicians who sing for you or fellow runners who share their hopes of why they are running. All of this reminds you to keep going. In my world of cancer, the people in my life who cried with me, laughed with me, encouraged me and motivated me reminded me of why I had to keep running. Before reading on, take a moment and listen to Jack's Mannequin, Swim....
In one of my favorite movies, Tombstone, Doc Holliday says, "There is no normal life, Wyatt. There's just life. Ya live it." The grind taught me to enjoy life. The grind reminded me of how precious life is. The grind showed me a glimpse of the finish. Nothing about this life is perfect, but there is joy in living IF you live it. Psalm 90:12 reminds me to "Number my days," to make every day count. The joy is in the journey!
Somewhere at mile 18, a runner realizes that there are 8 miles to go and the mental picture of the finish provides the motivation for each step and stride. So what is it about the finish that makes the race worth running? The finish is cheering family. The finish is friends jumping up and down calling my name. The finish is "no more!" I remember every marathon seeing my wife, Chris, and sometimes my children, during the race and at the finish line. The finishes were always beautiful and memorable. But there was still pain. In Revelation 21:4, John describes heaven as no more pain, tears or sorrow. The finish line is free of the pains that come with the journey. At my finish, my grandmother, Ma-Ma, will laugh with me. My brother (in-law), Don, will shout with me. My cousin Ken, who had been a quadrapalegic, will run with me, and my cancer family members will embrace me. Even if my wife and best friend, Chris, is on this earth years after me, she will arrive in just a few moments. The finish teaches us that time is an earthly measure.
But most importantly, my savior, Jesus Christ will be there at my finish. The power of the resurrection is in Jesus. He is my hope and my healer. This finish will be perfect. This finish will be beautiful. Happy Easter! Jesus lives!