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Locking Eyes With Jesus


1ST IN A 5-PART MARATHON SERIES:

In 29 days, the 45th annual New York City Marathon will be held, and my college best friend and roommate, Sabrina, will be running it for the second time. The marathon is 26.219 miles long and beginning in Staten Island, it covers all five boroughs of New York City to reach the finish line in Central Park.

In 2003 I went on my first trip to visit Sabrina in New York City. I had never been to the east coast before nor visited such a huge city in my life, so I was excited to take in all of the sights and experiences. Getting back to her apartment from the airport, Sabrina couldn’t wait to tell me that she had a surprise for me--she had managed to get us passes to the finish line of the esteemed New York City Marathon that weekend.

I was not excited. I don’t like to run. I don’t like to even think about running. It is the one form of exercise that I avoid at all costs. So the idea of sitting on bleachers and watching other people run during my first and maybe only trip to New York sounded about as exciting as watching water boil in a pot on my stove.

But I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I acted excited that morning as we headed off to Central Park. Little did I know that I would sit and utterly weep for the next four hours as the Lord impacted my heart time and time again.

At about mile marker 26, the course winds around the west end of Central Park South and begins heading back north for the last .219 miles to the finish line. What you may not know is that there is a slight hill as the runners round that corner, and it is at the moment they crest the hill that they can finally see the finish line. In between that hill and the finish was where we sat, so we had a perfect view of those final minutes for each runner. This is what I witnessed:

Many runners looked like soldiers returning from battle. They were dirty, worn and bloody. Men will often wear nipple covers because the constant movement can cause horrendous and painful chafing. But not all of the men wore them or else they fell off, because so many men ran by with blood-soaked shirts looking like they had been shot in the chest.

Others were getting disoriented as their bodies began shutting down. They would collapse, crawl and then stagger to their feet to move forward a few more yards before collapsing again. But on they went.

One lady was throwing up into her left hand every so many feet and throwing it on the ground, never stopping her forward progress to clean up or catch her breath.

And then there were those who had every reason to NOT participate in a marathon. I mean, my reason is that I don’t like to run and I’m not overly fond of pain. And yes, you can say, “Tracy, that’s just an excuse” and you would be right. But for those who had no legs or paralyzed legs, I would consider them having a very legitimate reason to not be in a marathon. Yet countless people with that very situation crossed in front of me that day.

Some ran on prosthetic legs while others used seated bikes that were pedaled entirely with their arms. Many passed by me in racing wheelchairs powered solely by their upper body as well. And one man with no legs at all was balanced on a skateboard-looking device, propelling himself forward all 26.219 miles by using the backs of his hands against the pavement of the road.

I sat and just sobbed, thinking of all the times in my life that I had given up and quit or never even attempted something because of excuses. It’s too hard. I don’t have the proper abilities. I’ll never do it right. I’m no one. God would never use me. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

But here is the one thing that every one of these people had in common: They NEVER took their eyes off of the finish line. It didn’t matter that there were hundreds of us screaming for them as they ran by. It didn’t matter the pain or discomfort they were battling. It didn’t matter what their limitations were coming into the race to begin with. Their eyes were set on the goal and nothing else.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

That is how I want to run the race of my life. I want to fix my eyes on Jesus, locking onto Him and only Him so that nothing around me will distract or entangle me, and I will “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NIV) and receive “the goal of (my) faith, the salvation of (my) soul.” (1 Peter 1:9 HCSB)

Because when you are locked on Christ, nothing else really matters anyway.

#faith #hope #Jesus #encouragement

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