“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
The writers of the New Testament refer to our lives as a race several times. They encourage us to finish strong and to run with endurance. This analogy has always made sense to me, but this past November, God taught me a great lesson regarding running my race.
My friend, Meredith Heath, is an avid runner. She had been encouraging me to run, just to get some exercise and clear my mind while I was taking care of Clay. You may remember the blog post titled “Couch to 5K” that I wrote during the time that I was training for a 5K with her. She sent me a really cute pair of running shoes, which got me started.
Then she asked me if she could enter us in a 5K in Baton Rouge. Honestly, my first thought was that I didn’t need a 5K to make me run. But, it sounded fun to do it with her, so I said yes. I started training pretty hard. I couldn’t show up for the race and have her embarrassed by me! On days when I didn’t feel like running, I did it because I knew the race was coming soon, so I would roll out of bed and make myself go.
The day of the race arrived. I was ready. We had matching shoes, so what could go wrong, right?
Another dear friend from high school, Dawn Borges, decided to come run with us. I had two really wonderful encouragers by my side for my first 5K. I felt very prepared.
We lined up to start the race. It was very crowded. There were lots people of all ages crammed into a very small starting area. The gun sounded and the crowd tried to move together to get through the starting line. We were having to walk because there was no room to run, yet. But, as the crowd moved, and people started finding their own pace, we spread out and were able to start our run.
Everyone ran at a different pace. Some people walked most of the time. One man who was at least 75 years old passed us! Meredith looked over at me and said, “We better pick up the pace. That dude just passed us!” We laughed, but it actually really encouraged me to run harder.
We started off great. We had a good steady pace going and we were talking and encouraging each other. Meredith and Dawn really could have left me in their dust, but they stayed right by my side. There were moments when I was tired and needed to walk for a minute. And we did. I would catch my breath and then I was ready to run again.
At each mile marker, there was water and a cute sign that said, “1”, “2” and “3.” It really helped to have an idea of where we were in the race. When I saw that “1” sign in the distance, I pushed harder because it was an exciting feeling to know we had reached a milestone.
When the “3” sign came into view, I knew we were so close to the finish line, but I suddenly got a horrible headache. Y’all, I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had a headache like this. It hurt so bad. I had to take my hair down and take my sunglasses off. I had water running out of my eyes and I was holding the bridge of my nose…just squeezing it because it hurt so bad. I told Mer and Dawn I had to walk a minute. I remember stopping and bending over. They just stood by me and encouraged me.
“We’re almost there, Kristy. We’re so close. We’ll walk it if we have to, but we are going to help you cross that finish line.”
I stood back up and started walking. Within about 20 feet, I could see that people were lining the street on both sides. They were holding signs and cheering at the top of their lungs. I was thinking, “What are these people doing out here cheering us on for a little 5K?!” But, when I heard their cheers, I was suddenly super motivated. They were watching us with excitement and cheering us on.
Those people didn’t know that my head was about to split wide open, but they cheered for me like they did. “You can do it!” “Great job!” “Come on!” “You’re almost done!” I could hear all these voices of people I didn’t even know. So, I picked up the pace and I pushed through the pain. We were jogging, again.
The closer we got to the finish line, the bigger and louder the crowd got. Their voices were even more excited for us, and I was even more motivated to finish strong. The last stretch of the race was shaped like an “L” so when we turned that last corner, we could see the yellow finish line marker and all the balloons. And, although this is probably an exaggeration, it looked like thousands of people standing all along that last stretch of road. Their cheers were so loud in my ears.
I was looking at the finish line and listening to the crowd, and feeling my head hurting so bad, but that crowd of witnesses gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going. I could see the end and it was close enough that I knew I could endure anything for that short distance. And, we made it. We crossed the line. The headache was still there, but I was smiling a huge smile! And, look at my sweet friends. Holding my arms and cheering for me, too.
Suddenly this scripture came into my head,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Tears were streaming down my face as I got the most beautiful vision of all the saints in heaven cheering for all of us as we run this spiritual race called life. They can see our finish line. They can see what we can not see and they’ve already crossed through the finish, so they know that it is worth it.
Right now, those saints are cheering so loud for Clay. They are all standing around in heaven watching him as he nears his finish line. They are telling him, “You’re almost home Clay!” “Don’t give up now, Clay!” “Finish strong, Clay!” “Even if your head hurts, Clay, keep going.”
In that sea of faces, there are many that he has never met, but there are many faces that he will know. His grandparents, my grandparents, friends that have already gone to heaven. But, the most precious face he will see is the face of Jesus. He’s in that crowd. He’s cheering harder than anyone. Because He knows what it is to run a really hard race. He knows the splitting headache we feel sometimes as we turn that last corner. He feels our pain. That verse says,
“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured because of the joy set before Him. We should consider that. When we are tired of running, and our head hurts, we should consider Jesus. He endured so much more than will ever be asked of us, yet he finished. And, now, He’s there….cheering us on.
Every race ends with a prize. Our little 5K ended with a medal,
but just imagine the prize that awaits us when we make it to heaven! Imagine the crown of glory that we will receive. And, Jesus himself will give it to us! (II Timothy 4:7-8) What an honor.
I mean, what could you NOT do if you knew the end of it was a crown of glory presented to you by Jesus Himself? You have to believe it. You have to see your life through eternal eyes to believe that you are running this race for eternity.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4:16-18
I’ll be honest with you. I am at the part in my race where my head is starting to hurt. I am feeling the affects of this affliction. Clay is having a harder time. He sleeps most of the time, and when he is awake, he is starting to get more and more confused. He still recognizes everyone who comes, but he is having a harder time talking. He struggles to do things I need him to do, so I have some frustrating moments.
But, God has given me a very real picture of heaven. He is drawing my heart to heaven through this situation. My eyes are on the eternal things and not the temporal things. Those saints are cheering loudly right now. They are cheering for Clay, but they are cheering for me and you, too. Our race may not be over, but we are reaching some mile markers that let us know we are that much closer to the finish line. We are all running at different paces, in different shoes, and with different people, but we are all running.
You might be walking right now because you need to catch your breath, and that’s ok. God will send people to give you water and refresh you. He’ll do things to remind you that He is with you. Let Him refresh you so you can run again.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith. And He is cheering for us so hard! He is so excited to see us run with endurance.
Just like Meredith and Dawn ran my race by my side and held my arms when I needed help, we have been so blessed with so many people who are supporting us and helping us. This week, our house has been filled with worship, Bible reading, prayer, food and love. Here are a few snapshots:
We had Anthem come and lead us in worship, Taylor Beth Lloyd played her harp for us, many friends have come just to be with us and to pray. My family from Arkansas drove down today and prayed over Clay. Family from Mississippi came this morning. A bunch of our friends came out to support Grace at her volleyball game this week. A few of my lifelong friends have been cleaning my house and coming just to help me almost every day.
It’s just amazing the way so many of you have blessed us. Thank you so much. We love you for the way you are cheering us on to our finish line. We are surrounded with love and support that keeps us going. But, more than anything, we are filled with the hope of glory. We are so thankful that God has demonstrated great purpose in this journey. He is cheering us on and waiting for us to make it home. What a thought.
Let’s run with endurance and finish strong!
P.S. I love you Meredith and Dawn! Thank you for encouraging me to run that race so God could teach me a lesson that would be so important to me right now.
And…photo creds to my lifelong friend, Michelle Chenevert Morgan! She was in that crowd cheering and capturing it all! I love you, girl, and that photo will be a treasure to me for the rest of my life.