Final Hugs and Finish Lines

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

A runner awoke on the morning of the Boston Marathon with his mind focused on the race ahead. Not only was he a racer but also a husband and father. Much physical and psychological training went into his preparation for the marathon. When the big day arrived, thoughts were on completing the arduous run. He ran the race and crossed the finish line. What this man did not know is that soon after, terrorists would set off bombs at the finish line that would kill his young son, maim his daughter, and critically injure his wife. The final hugs he knew before and after the race were celebratory. Now, the most grueling race of this man’s life was about to begin: The race to survive.

Surviving a devastating loss is not accomplished alone. Many of us have faced sorrows and tragedies in our lives—or we will. Life finds each one of us coping with some kind of pain and loss in one season or another. Directly we meet with sorrow or indirectly when we enter into the grief of someone else and walk the path of grief. Surviving a loss and working through grief can be among the greatest accomplishments a life can know for it begs tremendous concentration, energy, physical strain, and forgiveness. Such requirements are only met via the help of others who through their ability to give, help each one of us to endure that which we must in order to survive loss and keeping on living and loving.

Simple activities cannot be considered ordinary or endless. The routine hug in the morning when parting from children or loved ones, the spontaneous outing for ice cream on a week night, leaving work on time to make it home for dinner for no other reason than to be there, are indelible and cumulative activities. They do not get the focus of birthdays and graduations but they rank high in memory making and fusing hearts for strong relationships. When time is taken for the final hugs in the morning and at night before going to sleep, that time may be the last. We never know.

The finish line that we run toward is the line that marks off the end of life. For some, that line is very far down the road. For some, such as a little boy cheering in the stands for his runner-hero dad, that line was closer than anyone imagined. More than that father could ever know, that final hug with his son would serve as a catalyst for him to finish the race of life; to strive to finish well i.e. with hope and encouragement for others. The Bible encourages us that throughout our lives we have a great cloud of witnesses watching over us to cheer us on. That means we are being cheered on in times of victory such as finishing races and also when we trudge through times of grief. In God’s continuum, He counts all the days of living as part of the race. He wants us to endure. We are already victorious through Jesus, the One who endured the cross to atone for our sins and give us hope. We look to Jesus for proof that we can go on by His example and strength.

Jesus finished His course. He made it through life’s sufferings. For us. He wants you and me to stay in the race of life; some days with footing strong, some days weak, but still moving forward. The Lord wants us to survive this life, for our sake and for those persons looking on in the bleachers that line the skies as well as those of earth where others watch and bear witness to our continuing strides—no matter what. Jesus died for us so that we could keep on running the race of life. He has seen to it that we can indeed make it to the finish line for He is right beside us and serves as our steady companion. And when we do reach the end of life, we may be tired and tried but we are certain to fall into the arms of Jesus, who by His powerful embrace will dissolve all human weakness and escort us into the light and endless joys of Eternity.

Lord, You are the One who knows completely the sorrows we suffer. You promised to be with us always and carry us through difficult times. Thank You, Lord, for Your strength and touch that upholds and heals us. Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of daily activities burgeoning with life and love. May we never take our interactions with others for granted as You guide us on the narrow path to run our races and finish well. All this is asked in the governing power and Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.