Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Stumbling over the finish line

Today, I finished my final final after 20 consecutive months of full-time school. And as I wondered what I would say upon this momentous occasion, a story from my youth came to mind as a perfect example to illustrate this period of my life. Allow me to regale you with a tale from my youth that, though I obviously did not know it at the time, now serves as a typological representation of my life over recent months. When I was younger, I was strong in track events, particularly sprinting. I succeeded in elementary school, and so I joined the track team in my first two years of high school. Unfortunately, the competition there was far more fierce, as my peers had by then also hit their growth spurts and were spending far more time training than I was. Still, I decided to participate, if not only for my own good. In one of the indoor track meets at the Field House, I signed up to run the 200 metre race, which consisted of one lap around the track. I was in the second heat of the event for my age group. I stretched, got in the blocks, and started the race strong. After the first 150 metres, I was significantly in the lead as I rounded the final corner. But then the worst thing that could have happened actually happened. I was not used to running in such a way and driving myself so hard, and my legs became lactic. I felt as if I could barely bring them up and down and that there was no power left in them. I began to doubt whether I could actually finish the final quarter of the race, though I still pushed on toward the goal. The other runners who had been relatively far behind began to encroach upon my lead, causing it to diminish until it was almost non-existent. But I could not concern myself with their efforts - getting to the finish line was all I could think of. As I neared that magic white barrier, I grew weaker, and I knew I could not make it. I was buoyed by encouragement from teammates, and still I perservered. But after withstanding so much punishment for the better part of 50 metres, my legs finally gave out, and I collapsed to the ground as I crossed the finish line. I expected to be the laughing stock of my team, and that I would be ostracized for my performance, which I deemed to be inadequate and embarrassing. But instead, some of my teammates helped me up and, though they were laughing, cheered me on! As it turned out, my legs collapsing actually appeared to them as if I was diving over the finish line to win the heat, since I beat my upcoming challenger by the amount that I "dove" over the line. A few people that knew me and knew the race could tell what really happened, but most people just saw me win that race however I could. Friends would later joke with me about the time I "tripped over the finish line," but I knew it was all in good staid. I had run the race, I had perservered, and I had accomplished what I wanted to: making it to the finish line despite the circumstances. The fact that I won the heat was simply an added bonus that was rather inconsequential in my own mind.
Scripture continually uses the imagery of a "race" when talking about the Christian faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, 2 Timothy 4:7, Phillippians 3:12-14, 1 Corinthians 9:24-26), and so it makes sense that my real race would typify my Christian walk over these past 20 months. I began strong, with many different goals and visions for success. And as I ran the race, I was doing well, and life was good. Then there started to be some warning signs, signs that I was not prepared for everything life had in store for me. But three-quarters into this 20-month journey, things were still looking good. Then, with the end in sight, came the blow on December 1. I could not know how to react or what to do, because I had not prepared for that to happen. All I knew was that I would do whatever it took to make it over the finish line that the end of the school year represented. Every step of my journey began to be laboured, despite the fact that in normal circumstances it would have been fine. As I approached the end, I began to realize that I might not make it. And without the love and care of many of my friends who cheered me on, I might not have. I pressed forward, despite all the obstacles and despite what was happening in the lives and minds of the people around me. By the time it came to the final few steps over these past weeks, I was done, and I collapsed over the finish line. But I finished, maybe not as gloriously or as triumphantly as I had envisioned it, but I finished. Some people knew what was really going on behind the scenes, but a lot of people were relatively oblivious to the actual happenings in my life. Regardless, I made it through this marathon of school and life. And just like winning that heat, I have some unexpected rewards. School, while not my best effort, is done until September, and I performed better than my effort deserved. My time in ministry with IVCF is now completed as a student leader, and there is a strong and vital group in place that will take over next year. Several of my personal relationships have borne fruit greater than any I could ever ask or imagine (cf. Eph. 3:17-21). And this race is done, and I am finished this work. And so a seemingly meaningless race eight years ago prefigured and paralleled my journey over the past twenty months. That's the Life of Turner, I guess.

2 comments:

  1. Let me be the first to congratulate my dear friend... You have faught the good fight, you have run the race... I know how difficult these last few months have been... and as we've reflected and endured through the many downs (and ups? were there ups?)... God has used us still and grown us a lot... May his face SHINE on you Derek and my you reflect Him more and more as you learn to walk in His ways... no matter how difficult they may be - I'm glad you endured to the end - even if those last papers and exams seemed impossible - Derek - Congratulations :)
    Becca

    ReplyDelete
  2. Let me be the first to congratulate my dear friend... You have faught the good fight, you have run the race... I know how difficult these last few months have been... and as we've reflected and endured through the many downs (and ups? were there ups?)... God has used us still and grown us a lot... May his face SHINE on you Derek and my you reflect Him more and more as you learn to walk in His ways... no matter how difficult they may be - I'm glad you endured to the end - even if those last papers and exams seemed impossible - Derek - Congratulations :)
    Becca

    ReplyDelete

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