I signed up for the race because I need the goal of a finish line for motivation to run. I need to pay some money, put my name on a list, and make a promise I plan to keep at 6:45 every weekday morning. It was my first relay race, the first race in which I promised someone other than myself that I would show up and do the hard work of running three legs in twenty-four sleepless hours.
Unlike most things in life, the beauty of finish lines is that they don’t sneak up on you.
You train hard to a specific mileage count. You wear your watch with the GPS calculator, and you set your internal clock to muscle memory mode. You know exactly where you will press stop on both the watch and the legs, and you expect a crowd to stand at the finish, cheering for you.
On my second leg of the race, I didn’t have time to set my watch. My teammate arrived a few minutes early, so I slapped on the runner’s bracelet, switched on my headlamp, and took off while chewing my last mouthful of granola. This stretch began on a highway at dusk, and I dodged cars as I passed highway exits. It was the time of day when everything shimmers as cars begin to turn on their headlights, and the sun sinks low.
Within a few miles, it grew dark, and then darker still when I left the main road and the comfort of its street lamps. I ran on roads ringed by cornfields, lit only by my headlamp and the occasional car driving down the country lanes. I turned down the volume on my music and tuned my ears in to the sounds of the night. The dark amplified everything—the rustling of the corn, the crunch of gravel, and my heavy breathing.
I could only see a few feet in front of me, so I ran blindly wondering when the next sign with directions to turn right or left would pop into view. The night noises scared me, but I felt far more afraid I would miss the next turn and never find my way back. I knew the rest of the team stood waiting for me miles ahead at the next runner exchange, and I felt utterly alone with my tired legs and my growing fear of losing my way.
Just when I thought fear would get the best of me, I saw a bobbing light ahead. I ran towards it, and as I drew closer it barely illuminated a table holding a few cups of Gatorade and water. Two women stood behind it, armed with flashlights, ready to hand me a cup. “Good job! You’re almost there!” they said. Their words filled me up like fuel, sustaining me for the rest of my dark run.
Sometimes making our way through life feels like running in the dark. <<Click to Tweet
We run and wait for the next sign to pop up, pointing us in one direction, or another. We worry about the noises in the dark, the unknowns, the potential for missing the way. We learn how to love and be loved, how to raise human beings, how to make a difference in someone else’s life.
We learn how to follow Christ. And we do it all with eyes that see through a glass darkly. <<Click to Tweet
The Psalmist David says that God’s word is a lamp to our feet. It is the bobbing light we strap to our heads and our hearts to illuminate the way. It is the cool drink of water to quench our thirst, the word that sustains our spirit, the arrow pointing “This Way.” Scripture guides us to the finish line, where a great cloud of witnesses wait for our return, cheering us on. Cheering us home.
Kimberly is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport.