Pastor's Wife, Mom, Writer & Imperfect Seeker of Jesus
The Final Race
December 6, 2015
5TH IN A 5-PART MARATHON SERIES---FINALLY!!!
It was November 5, 2011, and WAY too early to be getting up on a Saturday. But this was a day that Ryan had been preparing for now for 10 months. Actually, you could say that he had been preparing for it for 2 years.
He had been a three sport athlete in high school, as well as played two sports in college, but you know how it goes once you become an adult and start a career and family. There just isn’t really time anymore. But by setting a deadline and signing up for a specific event, he found that it forced him to become disciplined in his exercise and eating habits.
And disciplined he was! Almost every single day for two years, Ryan was running or swimming or lifting. He cut out snacking and many of his favorite foods and replaced them with lean proteins and lots of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it felt like I was making two separate meals every night: one just for Ryan and one for the rest of us.
But the discipline had paid off, and Ryan was ready. Today he would be attempting to complete the 26.2 mile Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis.
Needless to say, dragging 12-year-old Reagan and 8-year-old Chloe out of bed around 5:30am was less than thrilling. But it would take all of those two and half hours to get out the door, drive to Indy and find where to drop off Ryan in the pitch blackness. By 8am though, the adrenaline was flowing as we joined the masses to cheer Ryan on as he crossed the starting line with close to 10,000 other participants.
It was at the moment of crossing the starting line that the electronic chip on his shoelace was activated. From then on, it was set to send a text message to my phone letting me know when he passed the 10K (6.2 mile) mark, the halfway point (13.1 miles), the 30K (18.64 mile) mark and the finish line. His goal was to complete the course in close to 4 1/2 hours, so I knew we had a couple hours until we found him at the halfway point to cheer him on again.
After watching about 30 minutes of people starting the race, the three of us headed down the street to the nearest restaurant for some much needed hot coffee and a warm breakfast so we could thaw out from the early morning frost. Then as the sun lit up the sky and brought warmth to the day, we walked around the starting area for awhile until it was time to drive to the halfway mark on the course.
My phone had dinged at me at one hour and one minute after Ryan crossed the starting line, so we knew that somewhere a little after the two-hour mark we should see him at the halfway point.
It was fun cheering all of the runners on as they passed by in front of us, encouraging them as their bodies were beginning to tire after 13 miles, but our eyes were straining for that familiar, smiling face. Finally at two hours and ten minutes we caught a glimpse of him coming down the road, and Chloe started jumping and waving at her Daddy. Sure enough, there was that Cheshire-cat grin, looking a little worse for wear, but eyes still brimming with excitement.
We waved, cheered and blew him kisses as he steadfastly ran on. As he faded out of sight again, I turned to look at the girls, wondering what on earth we were going to do for another two hours. Then I had a great idea. We were only about 12 minutes from a mall that we knew. There’s lots to do in a mall, and the time will fly by. Eager to do something besides stand around, we hopped in the van and drove out of town.
Just as I had hoped, the time passed quickly. Ryan had crossed the 18.6 mile mark not too long after the 3 hour point, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to downtown Indy. Driving back into the city though was like a different world now. Traffic had become a mass of cars packed bumper-to-bumper.
As we inched along, I started getting worried that we might not make it in time. It killed me because I could see the haze of downtown buildings in the distance, but I just couldn’t reach it. So we began just taking random roads that looked like they might lead to the center. At the time, I didn’t have any GPS capability, so this was truly blind driving at its best.
The minutes were ticking away, and we still seemed like an eternity from our goal. My heart was racing. All this work from Ryan, and his family was going to miss it! A small gravel parking area came up on the right side of the road, and I took the opportunity to whip into it and park. We could walk faster than this.
Grabbing Chloe’s hand, and ordering Reagan to hurry up, we jumped out of the van and began our own race to the heart of the city. The traffic thinned down on the road we took until there were hardly any cars at all, which actually felt really strange knowing we were in the largest city in Indiana. The buildings around us morphed into older, dilapidating structures, and I started getting that bad feeling that this was probably not a part of the city where a mom and two young girls should be walking alone.
Glancing at my watch, I had a minor panic attack seeing that there were only about 15 minutes left until the estimated time for Ryan’s finish and I still had no idea exactly where we were going. Up ahead a guy on a bicycle was heading our direction who was dressed as one of the runners. He had already finished and would know the way!!
His answer to my question made my heart plummet even further though, as he indicated at least 30-45 minutes to get there by walking. Okay, time to regroup.
Now practically sprinting back to the van, we jumped in and headed towards downtown once again. By the grace of God, this time we ended up on the right streets and found ourselves headed directly to the finish line.
Ten minutes left. Five minutes… Four minutes… This was just an estimate though, so Ryan could have slowed down, right? Three minutes…
We found the parking garage. The finish line was right on the other side! Throwing all caution to the wind, I pulled into the first empty slot, slammed on the brakes, yanked the girls out of the van and RAN. Two minutes…
I know I had to be dragging Chloe, but I didn’t care. We were SO close that now I could even see the celebration of finishers up ahead.
Buzz went my phone.
I almost crumpled to the ground.
He had crossed the finish line! That beautiful, smiling face had arrived and those piercing blue eyes were looking for me, but I was nowhere to be found. HE was the one who had done all of the hard work, yet was willing to share the celebration of victory with me, and I wasn’t there. I had missed it.
Even now it still breaks my heart to think about. How selfish of me to set so little value on all of Ryan’s effort that I made such poor choices with my time that day. And for what? Shopping? Do you hear how shallow and stupid that sounds? I would give anything to go back to that day and be able to do it over.
But we can never get the past back. We only get one shot to live every moment.
One day the Bridegroom of our lives, Jesus Christ, IS going to cross that finish line and complete the race that He began nearly two thousand years ago, the race to put an end to all evil and to save His Bride and take her home.
How are you spending your time waiting and preparing for His return? Are you eagerly watching for Him, searching for Him in the Word and in prayer? Are you spending time praising Him in worship and telling everyone you know about this amazing Son of God who did all of the hard work but is willing to share the celebration of His return with each of us?
Or are you like the 5 virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 who were foolish and ill-prepared? The Groom didn’t hurry along like they hoped that He would, so they got lazy in their anticipation of Him, distracted by their own needs, and found themselves not ready when they heard of His coming. And when the Groom finally arrived, they missed it because they were out SHOPPING for oil for their lamps!
“You too, be continually ready; because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40 AMP)
When Christ crosses that final finish line in the beautiful story of God’s love for us and begins searching the crowd with His loving eyes, I want to be there, ready, meeting His gaze with a smile on my face and a shout of victory on my lips.