Friday, April 24, 2009

One at a time

Track meets in Northwest Iowa are really not spectator sports. The wind often howls, the temperatures are ordinarily not too warm, and when you package those two things together, wind chills on an evening when the temperature reads 49 are more like 29. Not very pleasant!

But when you force your kids to be involved, to make themselves better for other things they are involved in - including life - you had better show up to watch.

So there we sat, my wife and I, on Monday evening in the frigid conditions mentioned above. (At least it wasn't raining!) As we sat, we cheered on the kids from our school, noticed how gifted some of the kids from other schools are and, despite our butts being nearly frost-bit on the aluminum bleachers, enjoyed ourselves.

But then came the 100m hurdle race. When the hurdles are coached well, practiced well and run well, it can be a thing of beauty. A girl from a neighboring school ran a flawless heat and was very impressive.

In a following heat, however, one of the competitors clipped the sixth hurdle. Down she went - face into asphalt, sprawled out for the whole crowd to see!

"Ooohhhh" rang through the bleachers.

As is customary, the hurdler got up and tried to finish the race. She hobbled over the seventh and eighth hurdles, and then bit it again over the ninth hurdle as she tried to complete the race.

"Nnnnoooohhh" was then heard as the crowd hurt for the young lady.

She eventually crossed the finish line, but did so a little beat up.

Made me think of life - our lives.

We can be running along, clearing hurdles and looking pretty good, can't we? Our form is spot on, we pick 'em up and set 'em down and reach whatever finish line is in front of us at the moment beautifully.

Once in a while, though, one of the hurdles seems to jump up and tackle us - to send us sprawling to the asphalt. And there we lie, bloodied, dinged, unsure how to proceed and wondering what the heck just happened.

It is there that we have a choice to make, isn't it? When we are sprawled out on the asphalt, bloodied and dinged, unsure of how to proceed.

I am pretty sure we have all faced something in our lives that we can relate to this scenario - perhaps it was something of our own doing that sent us face first into the pavement, perhaps it was something someone did to us that tripped us up and hurt us? Perhaps it was a disease, an accident, pornography, gossiping, alcoholism, (insert your malady here) that took you down and left you with a choice to make.

Sprawled out on the pavement when life strikes, we do have a decision to make. Am I going to stay down? Am I going to continue in this pattern? Am I going to try to get up on my own? Or might I change the pattern and seek guidance?

The world long told me to pick myself up by my own boot straps and to get out of whatever it was that had tripped me up and sent me sprawling, on my own. But one day, when I had fallen and couldn't get up, God made himself known in the way of other people and the Word.

I love this piece of scripture from the book of Hebrews. Read what Hebrews 12:1 has to offer us: 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.

Hurdlers, in a way, understand this. They know that when they run the race, there isn't just one hurdle to clear but 10. They know that if they go down, they must somehow muster the courage to get up and try to clear the next one.

That's perseverance, isn't it? It's looking fear in the eye and walking (or running) right into the face of it. Perseverance is dealing with whatever it is that had us sprawled out on the asphalt, fully and completely, so that we might be able to continue on running the race marked out for us, isn't it?

We have talked a lot about this topic this week, my wife and I. Jennifer Lee over at Getting down With Jesus blogged of a scenario in her own life - where life has presented a major hurdle - and yet walking straight into that fear is part of the perseverance piece.

Chances are there are going to be more hurdles to clear for each of us. That's the other thing about persevering in this race. As long as God allows us to be here on this earth, there are going to be obstacles and hurdles that will be there - that's a fact. We are told in the Bible that "in this world we will have trouble, but I has overcome the world."

Whatever the stumbling block, I pray we call God into it with us. I pray that we rely on God, that we realize that he has a plan for us and that with Holy Spirit alongside (not out in front or behind, but beside you) that we run with perseverance the race marked out before us.

Grace and Peace!


Billy Coffey said...

GREAT post, Chris. I find myself cringing a lot when watching hurdlers, too. And for the same reason. I've missed my share over the years, fallen flat on my face, been bloodied and beaten. But rather than lie there feeling sorry for myself, God picked me up and carried me.

It's not so much that we finish first. Not so much that we hear the crowd cheering. It's that we keep running and persevere.

patty said...

I was freezing my patooty off at a meet Monday night too...probably the same meet...too bad we didn't connect!!
Heb 12:1 is one of my all time favorite verses. There are so many things that trip me up; that threaten to ruin my race. But thank God, He's got me...he's got me even when I don't have Him.

Jennifer said...

A great analogy, Chris.

And you know, one of those things that keeps a runner going -- and stepping straight into her fears -- is to know that she's got a "great cloud of witnesses" encouraging her to move forward.

Thanks for being in my "cloud."

Scott McQueen said...

I have never been good at watching, I cringe at the falls. But for some reason I have no problem patching them up. Thanks for the encouragement Chris! Although it may feel like a sprint at times, I need endurance cause this marathon can be quite trying at times. Run for the imperishable crown!

God Bless!

Anne L.B. said...

I don't know if the metaphor works with hurdles, but this is how I try to look at obstacles: whether they prove to be a stumbling block or a stepping stone depends on what we do with them. Our perspective also affects pain level and recovery time.