(I wrote this as a newsletter article for church. This imagery continues to stick with me and mean a lot to me today.)
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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In the summer of 2008, I went to watch the track and field Canadian Olympic Trials in Windsor, Ontario. The day was brutally hot, but despite the heat a sizable crowd was there, cheering on their local athletes with Olympic hopes. It was quite inspirational to witness the athletes giving their all, whether they were high jumping, pole vaulting, shot putting or sprinting on the track. I was spent from the heat simply by sitting on the concrete bleachers, fanning my face with my program, and yet these men and women were giving all the effort and energy they had into their specific fields. While I was hardly motivated to move from one observation deck to another, they were motivated to push themselves to their physical limits with one common goal in mind: to represent Team Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Though I was inspired by all the athletes (and, I admit, excited that I could be looking at the face of a potential medal winner at any moment), the most memorable moment of the day for me was the 200-meter Paralympic track event. The 100-meter men and women’s races were completed, and a new line of male runners were stretching on the track. As I watched the runners get into position at the starting line, I noticed that they had men standing very close beside them who were without identification numbers. I was unsure of what was going on until the gun went off and the race started. It was then that I realized that the men participating in the race were each attached to an athlete by an elasticized bracelet, and were running in time with them, stride for stride.
You can imagine my surprise when I realized that the athletes who were hurling themselves down the track were blind. The men attached to their wrists were their guide runners, who trained with them and led them safely down the track to the finish line. These athletes did not hold back. Their disability was completely invisible as the men raced around corners and down the final stretch to the finish line, trusting their guide runners to get them safely there. They ran quickly, with skill and confidence, without hesitation or fear. I marveled at their bravery. It was really quite beautiful to watch, and the image has stayed with me.
As I watched the sprinters congratulate each other and celebrate with their guide runners, it dawned on me that life, in many ways, is like running blind. Sometimes we are like the blind athletes, running with all our might, not knowing what the path looks like or where we are going. We can’t see the path, we cannot see the curves and turns of it or where we are going, but thankfully, in Christ, we have a Guide that runs alongside us, leading us safely to the finish.
It is not always so easy to trust, especially when we cannot see. Sometimes on the path of life, we try to go our own way and take things into our own hands. We do not know the future, sometimes we do not know where we are going, and sometimes we are moving too fast. In those moments of hesitation we pull away from our guide and as a result, fall out of step with him. Once we become out of step with our guides, the more likely it is that we will stumble, trip and fall. Our Guide is there to lead us if we will only trust in Him! And thankfully, when we do fall, our Guide is always there to extend a hand, pick us up, and keep running.
There is more that we can learn from the blind athletes. These sprinters that moved me so deeply were able to run successfully because of three major contributing factors. First of all, they were in constant communication with their guides, who warned them of upcoming curves in the track and made sure their feet were stepping in safe places, to avoid tripping. Another factor that aided these runners was consistency and commitment. Running in sync with each other was not something that happened naturally or without effort. In order to be in stride, the runners had to train with their guides, and hit the track together daily. Time was a necessary means in order for the runners to trust their guides and have faith in their direction and judgment.
As a result of constant communication and a daily commitment, we come to our third determinant in the runners’ success: a common goal. Both the sprinter and the guide have the same goal of getting across the finish line as safely and efficiently as possible. Their goals must coincide with one another or else there will be a struggle on the track, and they will be unable to accomplish what they set out to do. Their eyes must be set on a common objective, just as the Bible tells us that we must keep our eyes on a common objective – Jesus Christ.
My prayer for us all is that we will trust in our Guide to lead us on the path; that we will walk with Him daily and talk with Him daily and fix our eyes on Jesus, so that when it is required of us, we will have the courage (and the faith) to close our eyes, grab His hand and run.