"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Matthew Freeman Race for Peace, Part 2

After the initial on-again off-again tossing, it was a settled on-again.  We got to the park in time for the preliminary festivities and even a picture and interview by the local paper and a camera shot with the TV station out of Savannah.  I think it had to do with our socks since this particular fellow was zoomed in on our legs.  I'm not sure exactly whose bright idea it was the night before (not mine!), but it was decided we'd all wear knees socks -- to match our outfits.  If nothing else, it got us plenty of stares. 

At one point when we were asked about our "leggings," my sweet daughter responded to a total stranger with, "They give us supernatural powers."  Lovely, Marynan.  Just lovely.

8:30 finally arrived and I placed myself at the back of the pack ... for 2 purposes: one, to keep from holding up those behind me; and two, to keep from being trampled upon.  Adrianne stayed back with me while Marynan went on to the head of the line so she could actually run.  After all, this was her birthday wish.

I couldn't believe I was really doing this thing.  The starting whistle blew, and for a while, I was staying in step.  I was actually RUNNING a race ... not walking.

The J.F. Gregory Park is a beautiful setting for a race, and my daughter tells me I was spoiled by it.  It is 335 acres built around a once prosperous rice plantation of the 19th Century.  It was on these banks that Union  forces marched in December 1864 to attack and capture Fort McAllister.  It was later purchased by Henry Ford and now hosts a perfect outdoor recreation spot for the residents of Richmond Hill.  The hiking trail used for the run remains very natural and beautiful as it winds around the canals and inlets of the Ogeechee River.  Spanish moss hangs from the trees and wildlife finds secure havens in both canopy and water.  Signs caution to beware of wild hogs, alligators and snakes.   I figured one of the advantages of trailing at the end on such a trail is that the other 196 people in front of me had already frightened away any dangerous creature that might have otherwise tried to eat me.  Or so I hoped.  (Actually, my daughter did see a large alligator but didn't have sense enough at the time to snap a picture.)

Quite frankly, I don't know when I've done anything so exhilarating or that was so much fun.  I ran.  I walked.  I ran some more.  A few pulled up from behind and overtook me.  And others I passed.  Races within a race, my friend told me, little personal victories as I sat my eyes on that person in front of me each time.  And throughout the course were those who were positioned to encourage us onward.  At strategic markings they were handing out water.  In other places, they were just there to cheer us. 

As Adrianne and I rounded the last leg of the journey, we came out of the tree cover and the course opened up to a long row of flags lining the way to take us to the finish line.  One more 90 degree turn, one more bridge, and it was ours.  But I could already hear the crowd.  There was no more walking/running/walking at this point.  I wanted to finish this thing well.  And so I said, "Let's go for it."  Buoyed up by the cheering, I willed my legs into motion one more time and set my sight on the goal.  As I crossed the finish line, my friend Lisa, Matthew's mother, waited.  I ran into her arms and she joyously shouted, "You did it!" to which I cried into her ear, "I did it for you and for Matthew."  What joy was mine!

Like I said in Part 1 of my post, I'm not a runner.  I've never even pretended to be.  And I most likely never will be.  But I am in a race in which there really does exist a supernatural Aide.  The landscape is beautiful but often wild.  And the course is not always smooth.  It's laden with rocks and pebbles with winding paths  that are treacherous at times with things that would seek to harm if not destroy me.  Yet along the way are those that are positioned to encourage me not only to run, but to keep running.  

Therefore it remains my goal to finish this race: to set my sights on the One who waits at the end.  Exhausted and spent I will fall into His arms.  But what a delight it will be to hear Him exclaim, "You did it, my child.  You did it!"  

Oh, such joy will then be mine.

Approaching the finish line!  
May it be for You, Lord Jesus.

Just an ordinary moment...

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