Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On the Boston Marathon and Our Just Reward

Its more than a day since I attempted to begin writing this post and I still can’t think of anything to say that can begin to describe how I feel about the tragedy in Boston. There probably isn’t a whole lot I can say that hasn’t been said already and the fact that this is a blog about an upcoming marathon makes little difference. All I can do is give you a condensed account of what went through my mind in the hours and day following this horrific event. One of my first thoughts was “what would I have done if I had been one of the runners about to finish the race?” And since then I have continued to wonder, “How are those runners dealing with this?” 

I’m not talking about the poor souls who were at the finish line and literally felt the impact of the blasts. I have no doubt that their reactions were of pure terror, confusion and instantaneous grief – and for that they remain at the heart of my prayers. There are no words to express the sorrow and compassion I feel for all the people who were hurt and who were close enough to have heat and shock from the bombs forever burned into their memories.

No, I’m wondering about the runners who saw the explosion from a few dozen or hundred yards away. The ones who were passing their final half-mile. The ones who were a mile away and were stopped just after their hearts’ excitement was ignited by that final mile marker. I’m talking about the runners who were three miles away from the finish line, already celebrating the achievement of a life-long-goal they could all but see on the horizon. A goal that they would never reach. I’m talking about those who were running their final six miles after trying to get into the Boston Marathon for years. Those are the people I wonder about.

What was meant to be a video of victory and achievement.

There are a ton of different reasons people may have been running this race. Charities, supporting various causes, in memory of loved-ones, in protest to injustices, for the satisfaction of well-rewarded self-discipline and accomplishing something you never thought you could… the list goes on. When faced with grand-scale tragedy in the past I have often utilized the phrase “I can’t imagine...”  and I continue on with my prayers and condolences for the victims and families without having to imagine. But this time I can imagine. And while my heart breaks for those killed, those injured, those forever scarred in any way – my heart also breaks for those who may have poured out everything they had into this race, and never crossed the finish line. What a tremendous disappointment it would be to enter the final leg of the race and feel the relief of the home stretch, only to have the road blocked off just as I was about to accomplish something I’d dreamed of for years. And more than that – something that I am now doing not really in pursuit of victory over my own self-will or body, but ultimately in pursuit of victory over evil. What would I have done if, after promising you all for the last few months that I would pray for you for 26.2 miles, my race suddenly came to an abrupt and premature end? Well, I suppose my only option would be to keep right on praying.

Its sobering times like this when we are faced with the reality that there are things in this world bigger than our selves. Real evil exists and we have a responsibility to fight it – not with superficial words of opposition toward what we perceive as popular and trending injustices of the day, or by the glorification of a good-deed done once a year for a cause which has needs that go unmet year round. Rather we fight real evil by placing steadfast faith and unalterable trust in the One who is capable and inclined to execute all necessary justice, and all deserved mercy. And by continuously carrying out His will accordingly through our works.

Medal given to Boston Marathon runner
 Laura Wellington by an
anonymous finisher. 
It’s the little works of mercy we do, when the love of God and compassion for his beloved and suffering children are infused to fluidly into our daily lives, that really make a difference. Tonight I was privately and quietly grieving for the runners who, after months and possibly years of hard work and training, didn’t get to finish their race – when I came across a short story written by one woman who was ½ a mile away from crossing the finish line when she heard the bombs and had to stop. Walking alone some minute later,  after the relief of contacting her family via phone, a fellow runner asked her if she had crossed the finish line. When she responded that she hadn’t, he immediately removed the medal from his neck, placed it around hers and said, “you are a finisher in my eyes.” 

I couldn’t help but be thankful for this man’s compassion and imagine that if someone had reacted with that level of kindness and selflessness toward me in my hour of distress, I could never have expressed my gratitude. But then, someone did do that for me, didn’t they? 

My Lord created me and died for me, surpassing all manifestations of compassion that man could ever assume by an unfathomable margin. He has been ever at my side through thick and thin. Even when I have felt lost and all has seemed hopeless, He has remained unwaveringly near and accessible. More often than not He has approached me with arms wide open even before I’ve thought to reach out my hand to ask for help.

I suppose, in the end, the way those who didn't finish will deal with this... will have little to do with dwelling upon however much the Boston Marathon they didn't run. It will have everything to do with recognizing the path that now lies before them, and the race they are called to run for the rest of their lives. This is not a race run in the viewable company of thousands wearing race bibs and neon shoes. No, the runners in this race are united, but each is required to run alone. And this is not a race where the course is mapped out so that one might know exactly how to train to get the desired results. No, this course is often unpredictable with many steep hills and deep valleys that sometimes seem to stretch one forever. This is a challenging course which calls for more strength an endurance than anything that man could map out on his own. And this is not a race which ends in the glory of a photograph taken as the finisher is donned with a beautiful medal that will be hung on a wall. No, this race ends in the glory of eternity in paradise, as the finisher is donned with a crown worthy of an inhabitant of the Kingdom of God, that will be hung in a mansion prepared by Christ according to what the finisher has earned by his deeds. 

And so now my brothers and sisters, in the wake of this tragedy, I pray that we all are reminded of our call to sanctity. Let us be mindful of the responsibility we have to respond to this call through living out a larger-than-life, out of this world pursuit of holiness. A magnificent marathon of good will toward a finish line filled with souls won for the Lord. We are called to pour out our hearts and our very lives in an effort to win God’s children for His Kingdom. Let us be mindful that the road to eternal life is long and difficult, requiring much discipline and sacrifice. Let us give all we can to completing the task He has set before us. Let us run so as to win the prize. And if we endeavor to finish the race, He will see that we receive our just reward.

May the Lord bless you abundantly, and make you into saints. 

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