by Joel Lawler
I recently had the opportunity to run a unique race in the Ragnar series of relay races. Ragnar has these races setup all across the country. The courses are approximately two hundred miles long. A team of twelve runners take turns running three legs of the two hundred miles. The race I was a part of started in Chattanooga and ended in Nashville.
I was the second runner for my team. My first run was in the afternoon. My second run was at night. My final run was in the early morning before dawn.
My first course was along the Tennessee River. It was on a back road that followed the water front. The fall colors were beautiful. The temperature was perfect and the run was very enjoyable.
We functioned as a team. When a runner was on the course, we would drive by them and stop ahead on the course. We would offer them water and encouragement. There were over a hundred other teams in the relay as well. The atmosphere was upbeat and fun. Vans parked waiting for their runners would cheer on the other teams as well. When I ran by other teams, they would blow their horn and cheer me on.
As the sun went down, so did the temperatures. For early November in Tennessee the temperatures were unusually cold. As the sun was setting, it began to rain with a mixture of hail.
My second run started in Manchester. I ran through the downtown streets and then out of town. Once I left the city, the darkness was incredible. Without stars or street lights, I seemed to be running in complete blackness. I had a small flashlight with me. I pointed it at the street in front of me. It lit just enough of the road so I could see enough to make my next steps.
The course was mapped out. The turns were marked for us and there was also a marker that indicated that there was a mile remaining in the course we were running.
As I was running, I looked hard for these signs. I needed to make sure I was on the right path. I also looked for my team van. Knowing that I was not alone helped me keep going.
Life requires such faith. There are times where we move through life where there is not a whole lot of light. We may have just enough to take the next steps but we cannot see what is up ahead.
We look for markers so we can follow the correct path and not get lost.
We need others to help us keep going. We need their encouragement. Sometimes we need them to run with us.
Sometimes we find ourselves surrounded by beauty like I did in the first course. There is joy. There is companionship. There is the warmth of the sun on our faces and a gentle breeze at our backs.
Sometimes we find ourselves moving through darkness and the cold. It can feel lonely. We don't know where we are. We are tired. We have hills to climb and we cannot see ahead to know where they end. We can only keep taking the next step up the hill that is in front of us.
God has promised to be there for those who look for him. He is the light for our path. He is the one cheering us on. He knows the course that we are running. He made the course. He also designed us to specifically run on the path he has mapped out for us. He loves us and desires to see us run well and finish strong.