In a little over 24 hours, I will check-in for the 5K I have been training for since mid-February. I ran this same race last year, and limped home with runner's knee... which was followed five weeks later by a severely pinched nerve in my back. I didn't run again until two months ago.
This is the only race I've ever run outside of high school track. It's for charity. Proceeds benefit HIV/AIDS infected and affected orphans in South Africa.
I didn't pick this race because I felt a special connection to those who will reap the rewards of our registration fee. My church supports the race. Many of my friends participate. It is so close to home that, in years past, the route has actually taken runners in front of my house! It's practically a social function.
But two weeks ago, I gained a little perspective. Connection.
While I never knew my birth father...I ultimately lost him to AIDS.
My runs were already becoming spiritual, but this news ratcheted that up significantly. As I train, I can't help but think of those who cannot run anymore because their bodies have been ravaged by illness. I cannot help but picture dying mothers who are worried about their children that will soon be orphaned. As I anticipate the race - the pictures of South African orphans, the South African flags, the sheer number of runners who have turned out - I know the connection there is between those children a world away and me. I'm right here - in this community - and I represent some of the cost of AIDS.
My father's circumstance was likely different than many of those in impoverished South Africa. My father died of an illness that his recklessness made him vulnerable too, and that recklessness came out of a painful childhood. One not much different from my own... I am so thankful that God has led me in a different direction. He has spared me so much of what my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins have journeyed.
As I run tomorrow, the race will be personal. I will run with the knowledge that pain leads to devastating behaviors and consequences. That AIDS ended my father's life and with it any chance to know him. That my father left behind two children who never knew him and still do not even know one another's identity. That mentioning my father's illness is so close to taboo, that some family members are too ashamed to talk about it. That shame leads no where good.
I will run with worship music playing on my iPod. I will listen to words that praise God for his power, strength, faithfulness, grace, love and sovereignty. I will run with the word "DETERMINATION" or "DISCIPLINE" written on my hand, as I will need reminded to keep running. He has only given me this one body - this one life - and He has laid the road out before me and will equip me to run it.
"Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:24-28
In the study notes of my Bible, in reference to 9:25, it says (in part): "Say no to friends or situations that lead you away from Christ. Say no to casual sex, saving intimacy for marriage." How's that for perfectly timed and relevant?
I praise Him for his mighty work in my life, and the promises and direction found in His word. I praise God for people who generously show up in support of people they will never meet. I praise God for the little revelations that connect humanity around the globe.