I was in high school when I ran my first 10K. A few of my cross country teammates and I spent the weekend in Charleston, South Carolina and participated in the race together on Saturday morning.
After the race began, it didn’t take long for me to realize this was a different kind of event than an average cross country meet. While water stations were set up all along the course – an accommodation typical of most road races – these stations provided more than just water. Each station was marked by enthusiastic onlookers cheering us along as they provided all sorts of entertainment. Some stations even offered snacks for the daring runners, the most memorable being Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Because the 10K race was longer than I was used to running, each water station provided the boost I needed to keep going. I started to look forward to the checkpoints along the course, knowing that each one would bring motivation and encouragement. But what if I viewed the checkpoints, not as stops along the way, but as the finish line itself? If I only paced myself to get to the next water station instead of to the finish line, I wouldn’t have the stamina to complete the race. And if I deceived myself into thinking the next water station was the end goal, I’d miss out on the pride of a strong finish.
So often in life, I’m tempted to focus on checkpoints along the course instead of keeping my eyes toward the finish line. I want to get on with the next thing, whatever it may be at the time. Maybe you understand what I mean. We train ourselves to think life will finally start when we can drive or when we go to college or when we get married or when we have a baby. We pace ourselves for the checkpoints instead of allowing the checkpoints to serve their intended purpose – to fuel our endurance as we run toward our goal.
Life isn’t going to start later when that next thing – whatever it may be – happens for you. Life is happening right now, and the Bible describes it as a race (Hebrews 12:1). None of us knows exactly how long our race will last, but we do know that nothing along the way is the ultimate prize. Learning how to drive, going to college, getting married, and having babies – all of which are great things – are checkpoints we may or may not pass on the course God has set for us to run. The good experiences of life are like water stations, but Jesus is the Prize. The best part of the race will be when it ends – when we cross the finish line and are finally able to enjoy the relationship with Him for which we were created.
Savor the checkpoints of life, but don’t confuse them with the finish line. Let them fuel your endurance as your run your heart out to the One who makes the whole race worth it. Take your sip of water, but keep your eyes on the Prize.