Last October I joined a team which changed my life.
I heard the local Christian radio station was putting together a team of women to run the Disney Princess half marathon. It was a fundraising effort, to raise money and awareness for Abolition International, an organization committed to fighting human trafficking. But I had no way of knowing what God was up to. The race was rewarding, but the continuing journey could only have been orchestrated by Him – women brought together from all walks of life, spanning 3 generations, living all over the country – joined at the heart. I am humbled and so grateful for these amazing women I call my friends. The original race was but an introduction to what is looking to be a lifelong adventure of friendship, evangelism, and Kingdom advancement.
The half marathon was hard. Much harder than I ever imagined, and although I learned many emotional and spiritual lessons along the way, physically it was clear I had not been adequately prepared. So when the team began talking about the IronGirl half marathon to be run in April, I had to take a serious look at if I thought I could train well enough, and not aggravate an injury. It was a hard decision – I am an athlete, a hyper competitive person, and one who is always up for a challenge. For some reason, I was okay with agreeing to run the 5K, and sticking around to cheer on my teammates running13.1 miles. I had a few regrets last night, wishing I had not taken the easy way out. But somehow, I knew it just wasn’t my race to run.
My race, at just over 3 miles, was uneventful and routine. As a matter of fact, I felt a little sheepish letting them put a finisher’s medal around my neck. I worked my way over to the sidelines to watch the other finishers, and it began – the rush of emotion. Watching children as young as 4, and women as young as 87, come across that line. Watching women obviously struggling with health issues laboring through, and conquering, 3 miles of asphalt. I found myself cheering and clapping for each and every one of them, with heartfelt admiration. What a privilege I have been given to run, healthy and free. What amazing courage and determination of every women who had strapped on a pair of sneakers this morning.
My friend and I began walking backward along the half marathon course, from mile 13 to mile 12. I watched with so much excitement as one after another, I saw my Team Freedom sisters approaching, and I was able to encourage, high-five, hug and spur on the girls who by that point, were tired, hurting, and struggling to finish. I saw the determination and perseverance on those faces. I saw the faith it took to keep running. In between the faces I recognized were hundreds I didn’t , but I could see my little words of encouragement were met with gratitude. I may not have known them, but I knew their journey, and I wanted them to know I was rooting for them.
There was one girl in particular we had promised to help get home. So my friend and I jumped back onto the course at mile 12 and ran the last mile with her. We could tell she was hurting, and was getting discouraged. We ran with her, prayed over her, quoted Bible verses to her. As we ran with her up to the finishers chute and fell back into the crowd, I watched her cross the finish line alone, arms spread in praise and face gazing upward. This was HER race.
I would go back out to run more of my sisters into the finish. I cannot explain the sheer pride in watching each of them cross that line in victory. Although usually I covet the spotlight, this wasn’t my race. It was theirs. I was content to do my small part and fade back.
The heavens opened up and rain poured down. At the same time, God’s heart rained down on me, drenching my soul.
So often we wish we were the one going on the missions trip, or it was our family providing a home to foster and adoptive kids. We look with admiration but a little jealousy on the people who seem to be changing the world, because it feels like we are watching from the sidelines. We want to be the one doing the “big things” for God. We wonder why God doesn’t open that door, because He knows our heart. We wish we had more money, more time, more talent to give.
But sometimes, it’s just not your race to run. It is often your job to help someone else through their race.
Today, I didn’t run the “big race”, but God had a big role for me to play. In the end I was glad I hadn’t run, but instead could be a cheerleader for these women who mean so much to me. As they began to relate back to me how much my presence on the course had meant to them, I was humbled. Humbled by a God who strategically puts every single person in place for a specific and important purpose. He knew where I needed to be.
Never despise your role. One day, it will be your turn to run the big race. Until then, it is of great importance to Him that you simply run the race He has set before you, faithfully and with great love.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.