Over the last year, my sons and I have taken up running as a hobby. My oldest and I have run a couple 5k races and a 10k, and I just signed up my seven-year-old twins for their first 5k. To me, this is funny because I have never, ever, EVER enjoyed running. As I get older and more out of shape, I hate running even more.
But I absolutely love spending time with my boys and this is something we can compete in and spend time doing TOGETHER. In addition to the physical activity and cardio workout, we actually have some amazing discussions when we run together.
Yet, it seems that what my kids love most about each race isn’t the training or the “meaning of life” conversations… it’s the finish line.
I had one friend tell me that instead of training for a full 13.1 miles (as I train for a half-marathon), all I really need to train for is a little more than ten miles. He said that once I start to draw near to the finish line and hear the music and festivities that await; once I start to see people cheering me on, letting me know that I’m almost at the end, adrenaline kicks in and before I know it, I’ll be flying through the finish line. Sometimes, the finish line isn’t even in sight, but you know it’s there. You feel it coming. And, like the Bible says, you finish strong!
I mention all this, as an analogy, because my dad recently has had several friends meet their personal finish lines… not of a 10k, but of their lives. As my dad attended one memorial service after another over the course of just a few weeks, it reinforced in his mind his perspectives toward the need for us to finish strong.
You see, none of us know exactly when our finish line is coming, so we simply need to do the best we can with what we have as long as we have it. That being said, my dad never wants to be one to look back on life and reflect on missed opportunities, but instead, he wants to encourage everyone he can with the days that he has here.
Of course, there are those who are diagnosed with a terminal disease and are given some sort of prognosis on how much longer they have with us. There are also those who live beyond 100 who know that each day should be cherished, as they have many more days behind them than they do in front of them. But then there are the vast majority of us, like my dad’s friend who seemed to be perfectly healthy, in the prime of his life, out on a bike ride. Then all of a sudden, inexplicably, he blacked out and crashed. All tests came out normal, yet he still ended up in the hospital after smashing his bike into the back of a car. Fortunately, he has recovered from his accident.
But you just never know.
The one thing my dad does know is that the older we get, the closer we get to death.
That being said, he constantly prays that 1) God will open doors for dad to encourage and bless other people and 2) that dad would be able to recognize these doors. Since we can’t pause, rewind and slo-mo life, we need to be aware of the opportunities that surround us each day and not be so bogged down by missed opportunities of the past or worries about the future that you miss what’s going on now.
Getting back to the running analogy, one distance running blog after another tells us to stop stressing out about mile 6… or 26. You need to simply take care of the mile that you’re currently running. Then, whenever you get to the next mile, run that one the best that you can.
Or, as my dad says: you can’t do anything about the past or the future. But you can do something about right now. Now, sometimes, what you should do right now is repent for what you did in the past and seek forgiveness. Other times, what you should do right now is set yourself up for a better future. Then, there are the days where we’re surrounded by bad news on the doorstep, broken toilets and broken dreams… but even days like that shouldn’t stop us from making the most of each day and blessing the people around us.
From a Biblical point of view, we can take the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
For some of us, the finish line is forty years away. Nevertheless, we need to run the mile we are at as well as we can in order to win the race. For others, the finish line is before sunset today. And yet, even still, we need to run the mile we are at as well as we can in order to finish well!