My friend, Rhonda, is a runner. She probably runs every day, and even has taught her young daughters the joy and challenge of the sport. In fact, they often run in 5k’s together on the weekends. The bible has an awful lot to say about running:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12: 1,2
The chapter before is famous for all of its famous leading characters in their own stories. And these are some in the “cloud of witnesses” the writer is speaking of. Imagine. You are on a road, about six miles away from completing your very first marathon. The sides of the streets are filled with strangers and dotted with familiar faces, or at least some that feel familiar to you. Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, just to name a few. And then there are all those people from our own lives who ran their races with great faith despite all of the pain and fear that ran with them. They are all there, watching you run, and cheering you on to the finish line. To me, that is so comforting.
So, because we have the encouragement of all of these faithful men and women whose stories awe and amaze us, we are told to throw off all of the things which are holding us back. Runners, cyclists, and swimmers all wear minimal, tighter clothing ( no Speedo jokes, please!), because it makes them more aerodynamic, and therefore, a little bit faster. But some of us show up to our own race with backpacks FULL of fear, bitterness, rage, self-pity, and the list goes on…And sometimes we don’t have enough room in our backpacks for all of it, so we carry it in our arms, until we can barely walk, let alone run.
The next problem lies in the last half of the verse: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I don’t know about you, but when the terrain in my life is rocky and unstable, my first instinct is to bow out, or give up. I never saw that as clearly as I do now, since having my strokes. I let that nasty thing walk all over me sometimes! The other problem is understanding this next part: “….the race marked out for us.” The race marked out for YOU and the race marked out for ME! We each have our own roadmap to follow, and though none are exactly the same and some may appear easier than yours, you CANNOT run someone else’s race, and if you examined everyone’s journey, you wouldn’t want to! We must learn to stop looking around us, and look….where? Well, the next verse answers that . Jesus!
When I was in labor with my first child, I wanted to be strong and brave, so I declined an epidural for the first eight grueling hours! At one point, they stuck me in the bathtub, hoping that would lessen the pain for me. Ha! What a joke. Just to get through intense pain, I started staring at the towel rack on the wall ahead of me until the pain finally subsided. I don’t know why, but it seemed to help. In the same way, we are told to “fix” our eyes on Jesus, the one who carved out that very path you are running on, and the one who decided just where to place YOUR finish line. You can trust Him. You can count on Him to hold onto all of your stuff until you’re done. And when the crowd (or “cloud”) is chanting your name, I pray that you and I would hear His voice sing out above the rest.