It is the last lap and I am spent. Every step brings me shooting pain in my left leg and all I want to do is quit. It is very hard to come back after an injury--the fall that forever changed my life. All that is inside of me begs to stop. The voices in my head are yelling, “Why are you doing this?” “Who cares?” “Why bother?” “It doesn’t really matter…” I am greatly distracted and close to defeat.
Then I hear it...the faint, distant roar of the crowd. With each step it gets louder and louder until... I can distinctly hear them cheering me onward, “You can do it!” “Don’t stop now!” “You are almost there!” “That’s it! Keep going!” “Focus on Him!” “It does matter!” With this new wind in my sails I pick up my pace, lift my head, and begin to run again with gusto. I think about all of those who have gone before me, especially Him...and those who will come behind me following in my footsteps...and where those prints might lead.
“Press on!” I tell myself. “Press on!”
And yes! Finally! I made it!
I am so elated to have crossed the finish line that I begin to smile inspite of the exhaustion and pain. Buoyed by this accomplishment, I feel inside of me the strength growing to take a “Victory Lap” all the while hearing the cheering crowd in my head once again getting louder and louder as I approach the bleachers…
They are there you know. We just don’t see them-- the Great Cloud of Witnesses. They are watching from the bleachers of our life, encouraging and strengthening us. The saints that have gone before us are there to cheer us onwards. They are there to pray for us as we stumble through each lap of life. They are there to say, “You CAN do it!” “You MUST do it!” “You are the NEXT LINK in the chain!” “You were born for something GREATER!!”
At times we can be so short sighted. We so easily forget that this life is not just about us and the here and the now, but that it is about God and His purposes. We must pray for the courage to “set our faces like flint” if we want to finish the race well and win the crown of victory.
What is the crown?
Ultimately, eternal life- complete Union with God. Here on earth we can get little glimpses of eternity, of infinity, of what ultimately awaits us if we open ourselves up to it. And if we are cognizant of what God is doing in and through the present moment, we can see a tiny portal to heaven open and life can go from black and white to technicolor.
Belgian Carmelite Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen wrote this:
“Every person comes into the world with a dream of doing something great with his life, something that will make an imprint and bear fruit. God Himself inspires this dream. He is, of course, the One who makes the human person great. ‘You have made him a little less than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor’ (Psalms 8:6). If only we could understand that we can only realize our dream by being totally present to the little insignificant things we have to do at each moment. We encounter the infinity of God only in the present moment. The more we are recollected in the moment, the more clearly does the eternal now of God reveal itself.
The infinity of God comes to us through a funnel. It becomes so little and so narrow that it is difficult for us to recognize it. It comes only drop by drop through the small opening. The funnel is the present moment. When I put my mouth to the funnel, I am nourished by infinity...The present moment is the incarnation of God’s eternity. Those who live in the present moment drink unceasingly of eternity.”
Do not give up. Do not grow weary of doing good. Do not wish the present moment away. God is in it and if you close your eyes and listen very, very closely, you too can hear the roar of a distant crowd cheering you onwards towards eternity.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
I want to run the race of life with endurance. I want to please You and keep up the good fight. I do not want to grow weary of doing good or of this life. Please grant me the grace of living with a view to eternity all the while experiencing You in the present moment. And if it please You ...grant me the grace to hear the Great Crowd cheering me onwards this day.
I ask this in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.