It was another first for this 50-something gal.
A half marathon!
Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would attempt such a crazy feat! But each time I would cheer on a family member as they finished a full or half marathon I would notice the participants who walked across the finish line, usually long after the runners and the thought would wander through my mind..."What if?"
So last fall as I watched my son finish the Omaha Half Marathon I made a decision. I would sign up for the Lincoln Half Marathon which would take place this spring. I knew that I could not waffle with the decision because the slots fill up very, very quickly once the registration opens up in December. So as soon as registration opened up, I filled in the on-line form, entered my credit card info and hit "Submit". It was done! I was in and I was entered in a very, very long road race. Longer and farther than any distance I had traveled on foot before.
I had lots of encouragement from family, all convinced that I could do this.
And bright and early last Sunday morning I waited with 10,000 of my new friends for the start of the 2012 Lincoln Marathon and Half Marathon.
It was a GREAT experience and amazingly (or not so amazingly) God used it to reveal some Spiritual truths.
The current Ladies Bible Study I am involved in has been considering the importance of relationships between women in the Body of Christ and the value of community in our daily lives.
As I was running the 13.1 miles I saw examples of how that plays out in my life.
I was in a crowd of 10,000 people from all walks of life, with a myriad of backgrounds, a variety of reasons for being there. Some were running for a personal best time, some were running just to finish alive and upright, a few were running to win even. But no matter what brought each of us to this place at this time to participate in this event we had something in common--to finish.
As I ran/walked/jogged (whatever you want to call it) I felt a connection with these relative strangers with whom I shared the road. I realized that we had a common purpose and goal and that united us regardless of all the differences that could separate us. We weren't dressed in the same running attire, we didn't wear the same shoes (in fact, I saw one gal with no shoes at all), we didn't run in the same manner, we didn't move at the same pace. In the family of God, the people who have a relationship with Jesus, we can be separated by a number of reason but with the common thread of the Holy Spirit we are connected. We have a common goal, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love each other as ourselves. I have a connection with my brothers and sisters in Christ that supersedes all the differences that can separate us.
Also, as I continued on the course I was cheered on by a crowd of people that lined the streets and paths for the entire 13.1 miles. Here were people who appreciated the efforts of me and the others on the road and showed it through shouts of encouragement. Again, I did not know any of the faces I looked upon and they did not know me personally but they cheered me on anyway. They were my "cloud of witnesses" that surrounded me as I ran. Their presence helped me lay aside the encumbrances (the fatigue, the monotony, the sore legs, the blisters) that could have hindered me. The signs they displayed, the high fives they offered, the music they played all kept my mind occupied with the positive aspects of the experience. And the unexpected results of all this encouragement and distraction was that I ran more of the miles than I walked. I ended with a better result than I expected. One could even say I excelled, all things considered.
My "cloud of witnesses" in everyday life keep me focused on the right things, keep me putting one foot in front of the other, keep my eye on the finish line. Some of them I am intimately acquainted with, some I know only by name and some I don't know at all but each one spurs me on through encouragement, prayer, affirmation and admonishment. And because of them, I find that I can excel, all thing considered.
And now that I reflect on my experience and the thoughts that it stimulated I see that the timing of this particular running event, my decision to enter, and the fact that my Bible Study was studying the value of community was all brought together by God's Sovereign hand to make an impression on me.
So to those who stood along 10th Street holding signs that read "Run, Strangers, Run!" and to my closest and dearest friends who encourage me daily to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling" I have received I say "Thank You!"
We are all in this "marathon" together.
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."