7th Inning Stretch: Beyond the finish line

If there’s one thing that will make you feel athletically inferior, it’s watching the Olympics. Having grown up playing soccer my whole life, watching olympians often made me envy their skill and extreme dedication to pushing the limits. The years of training, the early mornings and the endless number of daily sacrifices all lead to the moment where a single event, game or mere seconds determine your success.

In the entirety of the Olympics, there is no athlete like the gymnast. The gymnasts’ abilities to contort and control their bodies is beyond me. Their game is grueling and the competition is fierce, but the reward in the end is worth the process. The fire in their eyes as they focus on nothing but the goal of medaling inspires me. I’ll never be an Olympic gymnast, but I have an end goal that is even more valuable than a gold medal: to finish victoriously in the race of life that is set before me.

Just like an olympian, our life consists of training day in and day out to reach the prize.  There will be plenty of failures, rejections and unwanted twists. As much as God loves us, He is not going to make our lives void of difficulties. There will be seasons of doubt and times when we want to lie down on the sidelines and give up. I’m guilty of praying for God to take away the difficulties, rather than help me get through them. I have found that when running through this race, which often feels more like an insane obstacle course, we must pray for endurance. God will not only grant us the endurance we need, but people in our lives to go through it with us.

When I was 16 years old, I spent my first summer in Zambia with Teen Missions International. Before my team traveled there, we spent two weeks training and preparing as a team in Florida. One of our team building exercises was the infamous obstacle course (OC), and the leaders woke us up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. every day to run it. The trick is, it is impossible to finish individually. The very last obstacle was getting our entire team over a 12-foot wall. It was only through teamwork and a lot of pain that this could be successfully completed. We complained about it every day, but the truth is that our relationships as a team and even individual friendships were strengthened through the physical torture of the OC.

For me personally, I faced a rough season in my life last year when my close friend Ryan was killed in a car accident. Although it did not come for a while, my joy came from knowing Ryan had run the race of his life fully and faithfully, and had “crossed the finish line” to meet his Father.

Next time you feel weighed down by the pressures of the world, or even if you are experiencing many blessings, never turn your eyes away from what is the very reason for our existence – our reason for running this race. Everyone’s race is going to be different, filled with seasons of happiness and seasons of mourning. In the midst of it, our eyes should be fixed onward, towards the day when we can meet our Creator, Savior and Father, to hear Him say the words “well done, good and faithful servant.” This outshines any gold medal we could ever receive here on earth.

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