I’ve never been one to want to skydive, bungee cord jumping into a ravine, or tightrope over a volcano. But after running a marathon, I have a better appreciation for the appeal of those extreme sports. There is something to be said about the experience of pushing your body past its limits and living to tell the story.
As soon as the race was done, I knew that I successfully avoided injury, but man, was my body sore! My feet hurt. My muscles ached. Those days afterward, my body was like, “I thought we were friends.” “Did I offend you in some way?” “Why do you hate me so much?” It wasn’t until the end of the week before I could comfortably go upstairs again. But again, it was all worth it.
After my cry-fest at the end of the run, we walked to the post-race party, grabbed a couple of free beers, then headed to a burger place to eat. We came home, where I could finally take a shower and a nice long nap. Later in the day, Kristin gave me a gift to honor completing the race. Along with the boys, she made a plaque for me to hang my race bibs and finisher medals. They all knew by the end of this that I was planning on doing more of them, so they made me a way to collect and display this medal and those to come. She’s the best! But that wasn’t the amazing part of the gift.
I previously mentioned that mile 19 was a chore and doubted my desire to finish the race. I shared that experience with everyone in the minivan as we headed to Frostop for lunch. So, later in the day while opening their gift, I was completely flabbergasted when on this homemade display plaque they had inscribed the following phrase:
At 18 miles you wonder WHY you are doing THIS.
At 26.2 it ALL BECOME CLEAR
“Uh, did you wood burn this in the hour I was showering and sleeping?” I asked, dumbfoundedly. “No,” she replied, “I had spent most of last week looking for a phrase to put on the plaque and this is the one I kept going back to.” They made it on Friday night, two days before the race. Crazy and amazing! Go Holy Spirit! It was the final confirmation that despite the costs, I had done exactly what I was supposed to do.
We are made in the image and likeness of God, but we also live in a world rotted with sin. That is the mystery and conundrum of pursuing holiness. To seek the greatness we are destined for, it will require effort, focus, and discipline. Unless you were immaculately conceived, excellence does not come instantaneously. It is a slow process of honoring our desires, selecting goals that make us vulnerable, facing doubts and criticisms, staying dedicated to the task, and rolling up your sleeves to get it done. And God will be with you each step along the way.
Isn’t this the point of the parable of the talents? God wants us to invest our desires and talents to do the greatest good possible. We honor God by doing the best we can with what we have. “Your playing small does not serve the world,” stated Marianne Williamson in her epic poem, Our Greatest Fear. If we set our goals low, that doesn’t force us to grow and ultimately keeps us immature. Yet, we need to be realistic with our goals, lest we fall into cynicism and discouragement. Wisdom guides the way and courage is needed in the response. God wants us to be a light to the world, a city on the hill, the best flavor of the world, and a beacon of hope to others. Our accomplishments can inspire others to do the same.
As I bring these reflections of my first marathon to a close, I want to offer my favorite quote from my favorite superhero movie, Spider-Man 2. After being rescued by Spider-Man, Aunt May is inspired by his heroism and begins to take the hard steps in organizing her life. Her nephew Peter, who unbeknownst to her is Spider-Man, comes over to talk and she offers the following encouragement to him: “I believe there is a hero in all of us, gives us strength, makes us noble, even though sometimes we need to give up the thing we want the most.” Holiness requires sacrifice. God knows that. This marathon didn’t make me holy, but it gave me an analogy to explain the clarity and understanding that follows hardships in life. Amid our trials and suffering, doubts and confusion, we can all feel tempted to throw in the towel, call the Uber, and just go home. Sometimes that seems logical. But if we are sharp with our discernment and clear with our desire, God will bless it no matter how hard it is. Pray to God, play the hero, keep going, then, in the end, it will all make sense. Every heartache. Every joy. Everything will be made clear. And that’s the marathon that we are all running.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and
persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”