Sometimes things seem to be on some sort of cosmic collision course. Lately, the thoughts, emotions and situations of life seem to be flowing into some sort of streaming meaning- teaching me what it means to truly endure, truly wait, and to truly gain patient hope in the Lord.
In anticipation of an upcoming 4 person team relay marathon, I've been running more. And in the meantime, I've been treating a patient at the hospital who is teaching me about endurance. In the midst of a really difficult diagnosis, he's been quietly teaching me (and probably lots of other people, too) about what it means to run this race called life. What I'm learning:
1. Consistent training with intentionality is essential.
I've printed out a training schedule that will help me make sure I'm ready in March to run my 7.8 mile leg of the race. In being intentional about my mileage, I'll be ready. How much more should I intentionally order my life around prayer and seeking out the things of God?
As I wheel my patient to the mat, he knows how difficult it's going to be. He's stretched and he's tried and he's tested, but he endures with great dignity. He tries his best and musters a smile even when it's hard. And I know it's because he's lived a life of love. He has consistently trained in spiritual disciplines that has given him strength for times getting tough... as they inevitably will for all of us this side of Jesus' return. I hardly know this man, but I can see fruit that only comes from a life of consistent training.
1 Corinthians 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.2. Fellowship with those who encourage you on to the finish line is extremely helpful.
Being able to talk with my team members (go team Graney!) about our plans and our training is so encouraging. Reporting to my running friend at work on Monday about my awesome Saturday morning run propels me to do more, to go farther, to run faster. When I see others joining in and triumphing and moving forward despite great odds or great disappointment, it moves my heart to join in the race. I need friends who run and I need friends who surround me and encourage me to press on to victory in Jesus. My friend Lydia recently reminded me that the fellowship of believers showcases the heart of the One who loves us and created us. It moves us.
My patient has surrounded himself with these people who reveal the Father's heart. They are standing in line to help in any way possible and encourage him on. His family adores him. His wife has not left his side. His friends are many. The prayers are many.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
3. Your focus must remain ahead of you.
It's easy to get caught up in what happened in the past. Reliving past victories or rehashing defeats- neither exercise is helpful, but rather takes your eyes of the truth of the moment.
My patient patiently waits as I get everything together. I wrap his ankle in ace wrap to assist in clearing his foot when he walks as his left side has experienced a significant degree of weakness. I bring a walker over to his wheelchair and instruct him on the best way to stand. I give him pointers on how to walk while his wife walks behind us, pushing the chair. All the while, he stands, putting one foot in front of the other, working in the strength that he has for today. He doesn't get caught up on what he did yesterday or how much farther he has to go, but he sits and rests after a labored walk and speaks about the blessings of God.
Philippians 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead...
4. In not giving up, you win.
Hebrews 12:2-3 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The key to running a race is that you know that there is an end. That there will be rest. What I love about running 5K and 10K and especially marathon-type races is that there is total victory in just finishing. It's going to be especially fun in Little Rock for our team relay because every one of us will get a medal- and the Little Rock Marathon prides itself in the unusually large size of their prized medals.
The point is, finishing is winning.
My patient is finishing well, sharing his life with those around him, and imparting knowledge of God even to his physical therapist in the midst of great pain. It's great endurance, but I know it is not all self-generating. When we lean into Jesus, we find great strength.
Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Death will not always have a stronghold over this world. There is an end. Cancer will not always ravage the lives of even those who love God. There is a clear call to the saints in Revelation to patient endurance (Rev 3:10, 13:10, 14:12). That great Day has not yet come, but when it does, we have to know and have lived the patient endurance that the strength of God affords.
5. The goal, or the prize, is paramount.
There is nothing like crossing the finish line of a race. It is glorious.
In April of 2000, I finished the Country Music Marathon in a whopping five hours and twelve minutes. It was really hard, but I'll never forget the moment I saw the finish line. I'll never forget the tears in Jack's eyes and the exhilaration of such an accomplishment.
How much more thrilling will it be to run to the arms of Jesus?
Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I have some other friends who are running in the team marathon in March. Rendi, who is running with her sisters and her sister's friend, informed me that I'll be running my leg of the race with her sister, Faith.
"Prophetic?" I thought to myself.
Running the race with Faith... Hmm...
I had to say goodbye to my patient today. He'll probably discharge home by the time I'm back at inpatient rehab next Wednesday. But on his way out, I told him how much it has moved my heart to see him respond to the situation with such faith. I told him how, in Hebrews 11:21, it talks about Jacob leaning on his staff and worshipping God. That's what Jacob was commended for. Leaning on his staff and worshipping, just like my patient had to lean on the aluminum frame of his wheeled walker, but all the same, praised God.
Thank you, friend, for giving me a taste of what it's like to have victory in running this race called life. And thank you, God, for the strength to run it well.
Song of Solomon 1:4 Take me with you. Come, let's run! (NLT)