A lesson for eternity
I caught a glimpse of Heaven on a Monday morning in my coach’s office.
Coming off of our conference championship meet, we had to decide if I was going to compete the next weekend at a “last chance” meet to see if I could qualify for nationals. I had just run my personal best of 2:13 and I would need to run a 2:10 or faster to qualify.
Coach looked across his desk and asked me what I thought. I told him I didn’t think I had it in me.
“I agree. I think you’re a 2:10 girl, but not right now,” he answered. “I think you scraped the bottom of the bucket on Friday to do what you did.”
He was right. My bucket felt very empty. I ran a prelim race on Thursday with a time that squeaked me into Friday’s final. And although it was one of my slowest times, I felt exhausted after that race. I walked over to Coach afterward and he asked me what was wrong.
“I just feel so tired,” I whispered. I proceeded to throw up anything that might have been left in me. I had no idea how I was supposed to run a race the next day.
But I did, solely by the grace of God. I ran well enough to finish third and run a PR. I didn’t care that I didn’t win or hit a provisional mark, I was just thrilled to have finished the race.
On that Monday morning as we reflected on the season and my four-year career, I still didn’t care that I didn’t achieve more. Not because I gave up or didn’t try or didn’t want to keep improving. I didn’t care because I was completely content with the effort I had given in my training and racing that I knew I couldn’t have done any more.
After I left his office I remembered something I wrote about a year and a half ago:
Lately I’ve been looking to just hear God say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” with the idea in mind that I could just rest. That I could stop. I was thinking there’d be this place I’d finally get to and I could just settle into that role and I’d be all set. Or I at least want to have some definitive end in mind that I can strive for.
I realize that by virtue of still being alive I won’t hear God say those words quite yet. But that morning I felt like I had officially finished my “competitive running” life and there was so much peace. Of course I’m sad it’s over, but there’s something special about ending well and knowing you couldn’t have done more.
I left with great peace. I spent the rest of the week lounging, eating junk food, and staying up way too late. I don’t think I’ve ever actually rested like that. It felt really weird, yet incredibly refreshing. I’ve never been able to shrug the feeling of needing to achieve more or be more until that week.
I think that’s a little bit what Heaven’s going to be like, but only if I continue to live my life and “run my race” well. I’m so grateful for that experience. It gave me the encouragement I needed to keep persevering with eternity in mind. We weren’t meant to live on Earth forever, just like I wasn’t meant to be a college runner forever, so at some point, our time here is going to end. I pray I’ll finish my life in a similar way, content and proud knowing I did what I could with the time and resources I had.
I pray I’ll end my life like Paul, saying, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I Have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of His return.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)