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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Prize is too Big to Quit Now!

I was fourteen years old the first time I read "I'm Running to Win" by Ann Kiemel. A book about her first marathon and faithfully running to the goal, trusting Jesus, being faithful through bleeding toes, injuries, saying "yes" to God no matter what.

It got into my soul in a deep-down kind of way that forced--yes, forced-- me to steal the book from my mom and never give it back. Don't worry, I confessed and she gave it to me, so my guilt is covered.

I've read the book so many times, it's discolored, frayed, coffee-stained, like all beloved books should be (apologies to my brother, Bill, who would probably hyperventilate at the thought of one of his books frayed or coffee-stained no matter how old it is).

How was I to know almost thirty years later my greatest struggle would be the very topic of my most cherished book: faithfulness?

We teach ourselves to be what we become, first through tiny compromises, excuses, one missed commitment at a time. One glass of wine too many, one failure to get on the treadmill then another until all our hard work is for nothing. One day of saying, I'll do it tomorrow or next week I'll drag my sorry, allergy-riddled fat head out of bed and head to the HOUSE for worship with my fellow Christ-followers.Or, I know I told the kids we'd go to McDonalds, but there's this deadline--which most of the time really meant, I don't feel like getting out of my PJ's (the writer's work suit), brushing my hair, putting on makeup and going out among all those people.

For the past nine months, God has been slowly (and most times, painfully) dragging me past comfort toward faithfulness. I don't know why I decided it was worth it, but something clicked in me and I said, "enough, already". If I'm going to do it, let's do it.

Which is not to say I've arrived. That's what running to the goal means. We press on, fall down, pick up and keep running. It hurts and our lungs scream for mercy and our legs are about to give out, but we keep putting one foot in front of the other, enduring the cross the for the prize at the end of the road. Even if a million others are in front of you, even if the banner has been broken by the strongest runner and the crowds have dissipated, and night has fallen while you limp along to the finish line. I have to remember, this is MY race I'm running. Jesus and me. One bloody footfall in front of the other. Becoming stronger every time I push forward, pain overcoming weakness. Determined to live holy, no matter how many others do better at holiness, faithfulness, writing, speaking.

I have parts of I'm Running to Win memorized. This little snippet in particular:

"it is not, 'Jesus, I will be deeply commited to you if you'll heal my brother or increase my salary...or give me that new house...or make me famous.' It is rather,
Jesus, I will follow you to the end, no guarantees asked. No special rewards except that you'll be at the end of the road to meet me when I get there...and I will know that I've lived out my life in truth. Whatever is along the road...during the race...yes to it. To anything you bring into my life."

We each have a race to run. Some sprint and get there faster. Others spring forward and fall back like the clock twice a year (unless you live in Arizona--but stay with me). Others sit back and never get into the race.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but on one receives the prize? So run your race that you may lay hold of the prize and make it yours. Gal. 9:24

What are you running for? What dream has Jesus given you that seems to big? Too hard, unattainable? Let me say this, for all my struggle and false starts. Starting strong and stopping short of the goal. Going around the same stinking mountain a million times, despite all those things, I keep trying. I won't give up totally. I think that's why God keeps allowing the small victories. He is so kind. He knows how much I love him. How much I want to please him. But how human and weak I am.

I'm running, even if I'm the last person across the finish line. Even if I crawl across the finish line, dirt-caked, sweat-drenched, bleeding. I'm not quitting. The prize is too big. The loss too devastating.

That I may know Him....Receive the Crown of Life, Well done, good and faithful servant, Jesus, Can I wash your feet with my tears? Your pleased, smiling face is my life goal.


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