I pushed myself harder and harder to run faster and faster, with near reckless abandonment, unafraid of falling. By the time I was old enough to go outside and play with other children, everyone was amazed at my incredible speed.
After a while, my life was like a gunslinger’s. The fastest kids from surrounding neighborhoods all came to challenge me to foot races. I never lost. One year when I was 12, my father and I went to his hometown in West Point, Ga. He rarely went home, but when he did he enjoyed being the big man from Atlanta.
His family fried fish for breakfast and some chased it down with moonshine. We kids spent the days wrestling, running wild and playing cards. I was surprised that my tomboy cousin could pin me and how "skillful" they were at playing cards.
But during those summer evenings — Oh, how we ran! People would sit out on their porch watching us race. These kids were fast, but I was faster! My dad was impressed. I doubt he knew how fast I could run until that summer visit.
As word spread in their community about me that week, along came their fastest runner — a lean, athletic guy in his 20s.
“Who’s supposed to be so fast out here?” he shouted. All the kids my age ran to him. I was standing alone in the street watching as he approached me.
“I’ll bet I can beat him!” he yelled.
“You’re too old,” my dad shouted. “You spot my son and I’ll bet you $5 my boy will beat you!”
The guy pulled out $5. A bystander held their money as the children starting screaming in excitement. More people came out as their country champ took off his shoes. My heart was racing and my adrenaline was pumping hard! I heard them arguing about the distance, the finish line and the rules as I was finally spotted about 15 feet.
I could feel my pulse pumping in my temple! All I could think of was winning. Beating their fastest runner would give my dad bragging rights for life. He ran down the opposite end of the street to call it. I could hear people shouting out to their hometown favorite! My heart was racing as everything went silent. I took a deep breath.
“On your mark ... get set ... goooo!”
I took off! I ran so fast all I could hear was wind! People were screaming as I blew past where my dad was standing without ever seeing my opponent. I won!
As I was slowing down, however, a wind rushed by me and I saw my opponent pass me like a blur! He raised his hands in victory! Everyone was screaming and shouting. I was confused.
“Why did you stop running?” my dad asked. “You had him beat. Why did you stop?”
“I won,” I said in an uncertain tone. “You were the finish line, right?”
“No!” he said. People started arguing. The car just ahead of my father was the real finish line. I wasn’t paying attention. My dad offered him $25 to go again and I was ready, but the guy refused.
My dad was disappointed, but proud at the same time. I was just disappointed. I was not accustomed to losing. I blew it. I knew it and it hurt. Later in life this little episode reminded me of the truthfulness of Ecclesiastes 9:11, that the swift do not always win the race, because unforeseen occurrences befall everyone.
In life, as in sports, the finish line may not be where we think. Jesus said at Matthew 24:13, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” — New King James Version.
Paul added at Hebrews 12:1: “So then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” — New World Translation.
This marathon race for life calls for endurance. It also calls for something else. As 1Corinthians 9:24 explains, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” — New American Standard Bible.
We can ask: In what way am I running? Am I following Divine directions in this race for life or am I running with reckless abandonment? 2Timothy 2:5 says, “Athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules.” — New Living Translation.
What rules are Christians given? Here are a few “running regulations” found at Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37-38, John 13:34-35, John 17:3, Acts 3:19, 1Corinthians 6:9-10, and James 1:2-4 & 27.
Whether it is a literal or spiritual race for life, victory may have less to do with distance than paying attention, following directions and avoiding distractions.
So whatever race you’re in, be sure to learn the rules, follow instructions and keep your eyes on the prize.
*For a copy of The Little White Book of Light featuring more Wright Way columns, visit barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com and amazon.com.