"For I am already being poured out as drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." 2 Timothy 4: 6-8
I was going to tell you about my training progress for the Marine Corps Marathon. Somehow, it doesn't seem appropriate right now.
Thank you from my heart to all the volunteers and emergency responders and ordinary citizens who experienced the explosions at the Boston Marathon today.
People who run marathons could be professional runners, sponsored by big companies such as Nike, or they could be just like you.
They are just like me.
I have seen some amazing people running races: people with amputated limbs. Women and men with triple-digit numbers painted on their backs indicated the number of pounds they've lost in an epic struggle to be healthy. I've seen pregnant women giving their unborn babies their first trip across the finish line. People with cancer, suffering visible effects of chemo, finishing a long-distance run ahead of me.
But there is a vast number of plain and ordinary people who decided to do an extraordinary thing, and subject their bodies to intense training for months. Those are people like me, only much faster runners (after much practice), more experienced, and more dedicated to their training.
Both the groups mentioned above, not the professional runners, are the people who would have finished in the second half group of finishers. They were among those crossing the finish when the bombs went off, and certainly filled the group of those held back from the finish closely following the explosions.
I can't even fathom the number of hours, weeks, months of training represented at the finish line yesterday by all these individuals. Personal dedication to a very personal goal.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
The finish line is rooted deeply in your heart throughout every single moment of training, because there are many opportunities to give up, and you must keep that end goal in mind.
Yesterday the finish line and all it represents was desecrated. The people who make success possible -- the spectators cheering for their beloved athletes -- were violated where they should have been rewarded by seeing their runner cross the finish. This angers me, devastates and deeply sorrows me. It also makes me feel defiant in hope.
Marine Corps Marathon, which I will run in October, is a qualifying race for Boston Marathon. Your time has be up to standard. Boston Marathon is so popular that entries are limited in this way. I doubt my performance will be fast enough to qualify. I'll be running alongside many of next year's Boston Marathoners. I dearly hope that no one backs down in fear.
Two things I am dwelling on this morning as news reports blare around me about the search for the bomber:
1) We will never be free from tragedy in this life, often perpetrated unjustly by hateful, sick people.
2) We never know what day will be our last due to unexpected circumstances, and we should never hold back from living as fully as possible.
We are called endurance athletes.
We don't give up when other people would. We believe deeply that the gain will be worth the pain. We hold confidently to hope that the suffering is worth it, because we're enduring for ourselves and for others (many endurance athletes are running for a cause to raise money for charity). It's a spiritual sport.
So how do we apply this deep-seated faith as endurance athletes when faced with such a horrific, cruel, hateful event as some demented bombing the very finish line that represents our goal?
It will be different for every one of us. This how I apply it:
I believe in one God, holy and righteous and just. I believe He gave us all free will, and offered us Himself in the most profound way possible: by dying for us at the hands of injustice. I believe His heart roars in anger at such events. And I believe He is a God of vengeance, who will avenge every single person hurt by what happened yesterday, and in every terrorist attack that has ever occurred. His vengeance is perfect. He will not allow any soul to escape absolute justice. Either the guilty will experience it themselves full on, or the body and soul of Jesus will absorb the punishment of the guilty.
I believe that God will heal the victims for eternity, permeate any soul that opens up to Him, and He will fully restore for ever and ever any experience of tragedy. The healing will be so full and complete that they will not regret the wounding. This is a God who loves so deeply that He never stops recreating -- He takes the evil intentions of injury and turns the experience of horror into a gift, something so complete and holy that victims will be the most blessed among us. He is so good, and so powerful.
I believe God alone gives us the ability to run these long distances, or bike, or swim. I believe it makes the heart of God smile to see us use and push the bodies He's given us. I believe He wants us to internalize spiritually the lessons we learn from our bodies in training.
Above all, I believe that a time will come when evil people lose their opportunity to act. I believe that Good will obliterate Evil, and ultimate war will be won. I don't believe this earth or this life will be purged of evildoers until that ultimate day. Yet I have hope that every moment of tragedy will be so deeply restored that the loss is unrecognizable, and that is what I look forward to. Not safety and security in this temporary life, but a life of permanence that is so whole and so healed that fear is nonexistent. And I will keep on running for THAT life, without fear of who could hurt me now.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [...] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:1, 3-4