On two successive Sunday mornings in early August, as I was preparing to head off for worship, I watched a segment of the Olympics men’s and women’s marathon. It is a stunning to see top runners from all over the world compete in an endurance race of that magnitude. I sat and marveled at the abilities of these well-conditioned athletes.
As I traveled in to the church I serve, I began thinking of how similar the marathon is to life. I understand some lives are shorter and some longer, but for most of us, life is anything but a sprint. It is an endurance race. Yes, the 26.2 miles of a marathon make a great comparison to the race of life.
A marathon, much like childhood, begins with great enthusiasm. There is promise in the air as everyone jockeys for position. But enthusiasm soon turns to struggle. After a few miles are run, and the hills begin to increase, gasps for breath and water begin to appear. These first gasps are so evident in the teens or early 20s, when people begin to meet with their first major challenges of life.
This is where proper training and good coaching come to the foreground. When people are taught to be patient, to develop a steady pace and stay hydrated, they are able to stay in the race for many miles. It is the same way in life.
As a Christian pastor, this is an area I believe needs to be especially attended to today. So many young people today are having trouble handling the struggle of life. They lack proper training and good life coaching. It could be they fear the struggling economy, or wars, or crime. We need to encourage them to be patient, keep motivated and to take care of themselves.
In our church, this is why we encourage prayer to God and the reading of His Word, the Bible, and to make proper use of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
But the race keeps on going, and it doesn’t get any less challenging as the marathon goes on. Maybe it’s the heat of the day or the nonstop action of the body in motion that presents a challenge for the runner. In a similar way, as middle age or the senior years of life come on, there are major challenges as well. Sometimes, we might wonder why. We are hoping for something easier, but that is just not the way the race goes. Remember, life is an endurance race. Be patient, keep a good pace, and stay hydrated.
As the marathon nears its end, there are the additional challenges. Cramps, fatigue and disillusionment strike the body and mind. These problems are quite similar to the problems of old age.
This is where family, friends, and a church family are so important. They serve to encourage us to finish strong. Maybe there are dreams and yearnings of a shorter race. But we must always remember to stay patient, keep a good pace, and stay hydrated.
Finally the end comes. We cannot make the marathon any shorter. It is the design of its maker. So it is with life. God has designed our life. He designed its beginning, and He has designed its finish line.
The major difference is that in a marathon, there is only one winner. In the “race of life,” all who trust in Him will be given the crown of eternal life.
So, be patient, keep a good pace, stay hydrated, and enjoy the race. Your life is worth it!
The Rev. Paul Appold is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansing. The opinions are the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.