August 8, 2011

The Race to the Finish

Our neighbor and pal Milciades is really athletic.  He registered for his longest race yet, a half-marathon in Asuncion that took place yesterday. The night before, we looked at the map of the race route, and I tried to zoom in close enough to read all the street names.  This was a really big race, though, with fast jokers from Kenya coming in to run, and some lightning quick runners on the list.  With all the hype, I didn't think memorizing the route was really necessary.  "They mark these things well."   

We got up at the crack of dawn to cheer him on, and it was a beautiful day for a race.   I knew better than to plan to arrive for the start, so we shot for getting there about a half-hour before he'd cross the finish line.  Racers were participating in 3 different length races, one of 10 km, his at 21 km, and then a 42 km full marathon.  They all started from the same line and were making their way down various streets of downtown Asuncion.   The only difference was that, according to which distance you planned to run, you made a turn-around at that designated point and crossed the finish line back where you started.  

For the most part, this was a really professional race.  Coca-cola sponsored it, so there were Powerade stands everywhere.  (Coke is so universal....)  The runners all got matching t-shirts.  They wore GPS ankle bracelets.  Each participant knew he would receive a medal at the end.  BUT the local police were manning the intersections, and traffic was still running for the most part.  When Milciades got to a certain intersection, Mr. Policeman waved him to turn down the road he needed to take.  It was only when he saw the finish line a bit later, that he realized this was, in fact, NOT HIS TURN!  Well, knowing that he was registered for the 21K race, the announcer went wild at how quickly our friend had made it to the finish line.  The guy was shouting about a new world record, the camera crews took off running, the models all gathered at the line to embrace him and have their pictures taken by his side, the crowd was cheering and all on their feet.  It was a wild scene.  But Milciades already knew at this point that he'd gone wrong somewhere.  What could he do?  He couldn't yell out, "No, sit back down, I just made a wrong turn!"  He had the privilege of explaining his mishap to the microphone of the press conference quickly forming around him.  Poor fella.  And then, of course, it showed on the tv news later that evening.  Woosh. Talk about feeling bad.  He had trained for months, investing a lot of time and hard-earned money in being prepared, only to follow someone who should have known the right way to go. 

We left there (after consoling him as much as we could) and drove about an hour away to another race.  This time, a friend from Carapegua who races 4-wheelers was in the national championship.  This could possibly be the biggest race of his career, and he was really stoked.  We showed up to eat the yummy asado they were grilling out show our support.  Several classes had to compete before his race, the finale.  We watched dirtbikes and motorcycles and little tiny kids on four-wheelers, all the while getting more and more anxious to see our friend win the title.  The moment arrived, and his race was cancelled.  No one who was supposed to race against him that day actually showed up.  We really enjoyed hanging out with old friends and eating that asado, but how disappointed he was to prepare and invest and then not get to finish what he'd started.  Twice in one day, what are the chances?  We were starting to think we carried some sort of bad-race-luck or something.  ;)

I couldn't help thinking, though, of how many times we do the same thing as Christians.  We prepare, we read our Bibles, we pray, we train for the big race (life).  Then we get rolling along and somewhere along the way, we realize we don't REALLY which way to go.  We look at someone else, who probably should know the way, and they confidently direct us.  By the time we realize we've gone wrong, it often seems too late to go back.  The good thing is, it's not.  We don't have to cross the finish line and only then admit that we made a wrong turn.  We can pause, pull out the map, consult the person who made it, and keep running.  (What a shame that Milciades didn't have the race commissioner on speed-dail, right?)
 And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... (Heb 12:1)
 And if you get in the middle of the whole thing and realize you're alone, that there's no one to race beside you, well, shoot.  I say get on the track and kick up some dirt anyway!  With all the preparation in the world, we never know what real life will hold for us.  But in the end, let's come alongside Paul in being able to say,  
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7)

1 comment:

  1. OH NO, pobrecito!!!! How did that happen?? Sure does make a great sermon illustration though.


Wanna leave a comment? Be nice, please, and if you can't, at least leave your email address...