Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Finish Line

This morning I had the opportunity to volunteer at a half marathon with a group of coworkers. My assignment was to hand out water and Gatorade at mile marker 6. The last runner to pass our station was a man in red shorts. He looked tired and downtrodden but seemed determined to continue on. As he accepted the Gatorade I offered, he made the comment that we could pack up and leave because he was the last one. I informed him there were still a few more people (we had just been told that), and a shimmer of hope flashed across his face. A moment later I looked up and realized there was a white truck following closely behind, packing up the orange cones. It upset me that they would be so obvious about the fact he was the final runner. How disheartening that would feel! What harm would it have caused for them to wait a few extra minutes before cleaning up the course? We cheered him on his way, packed up our gear, and left to meet up with the rest of our crew.

At the finish line, we handed out mugs and congratulated the racers on their feat. On three separate occasions, I was told I could leave. I was torn because I had to be at church at 11 am, but I wanted to see the man in red shorts cross the finish line. I decided to wait. I had cheered for him at the "You're almost half way!" point and wanted to be there when he finished. Two hours passed, and I continued to wait. Three of my coworkers decided to stay as well. We watched as the race coordinators began to pack up the banners, barricades, and other equipment. Very few people remained. We worried that maybe our friend wasn't able to finish the race after all. Still, we waited. We didn't want him to cross the finish line alone. At last we received word that he was approaching the final stretch. I anxiously watched in the distance until I saw him coming around the bend. My coworkers and I immediately started cheering, and the announcer called out his name over the loud speaker. We screamed for joy as he crossed the finish line and congratulated him on finishing the race. I was so happy that he made it.

This experience caused me to reflect on our Heavenly Father's plan for us. He sent us to this earth to receive our mortal bodies so we could become more like Him. The race wouldn't be easy, but He promised to give us what we would need in order to make it to the finish line. Just as the racers had arrows showing them the way to go, we have scriptures, church leaders, personal revelation, etc. to keep us on the right path. He even sent His son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way. We aren't alone in our journey either. The Holy Ghost provides comfort at times we feel like we can't make it to that next mile marker, let alone the finish line. We also have family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers who encourage us to continue onward.

Sometimes I feel like that man in red shorts. The race truck is following closely behind, constantly reminding me of how slow I'm going. It's often tempting to just stop running. It's at those moments of quiet desperation that I feel God's love manifested to me in different ways: a bear hug from my nephew, a long conversation with a new friend, a compliment from a stranger, my favorite song played on the radio, a feeling of peace in my soul.

At the close of church today we sang the hymn, I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Hymn #136). As I sang the lines, "He lives to comfort me when faint" and "He lives and loves me to the end," I could picture our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ anxiously waiting for me at the finish line, hoping I would make it safely back to them. Even if I am the last runner and everyone else has given up on me, I know they will be there. Their love is the only constant thing in our lives. If nothing else, we can lean on them.