A mid-week reflection from Pastor Steph, for July 7, 2020
This photo is one of my favorites. It is from my son Ben’s high school cross country days. This was when Bangor High boys won the Mt. Blue Relays. Here are some things you should know:
The runner in the dark blue was named Josh. He was one of the best runners in the state. He would go on to be the individual state champion that year. He was the anchor (final runner) for his relay team, because he could make up any distance and always win.
The runner in the red is Ben, my son. Ben was also a very good runner, but had not had the success that Josh had. Being the anchor of the Bangor team, against Josh, was not something Ben expected to win. Yet, Ben, and the Bangor team, WON… and set a NEW COURSE RECORD… on Mt. Blue’s own course!
Notice the look on Josh’s face. A pinch of panic, some definite surprise, and a digging deep to try to achieve what everyone assumed would be achieved.
Now look at the faces of the runners in the back of the picture, also in the red Bangor uniforms. These are Ben’s teammates. They have already run their legs of the long relay, and are cheering on their anchor runner. They are shocked, exuberant, excited. They can’t believe it, but they are about to beat Mt. Blue… with Josh as the anchor! It is unbelievably exciting, and you can see it on their faces.
Now, finally, look at Ben’s face. Perhaps he knew he would win, perhaps not. What one sees most is pain – both physical and emotional pain. If Josh had just left Ben in the dust, Bangor would have largely expected that result. But with the possibility of a win, Ben dug deep, and found a new place of strength – and that new place hurt!
I selected this picture because, as the pandemic is surging, and we’re all trying to get back out, and we’re all also trying to stay in, I feel like we can relate to all these runners:
We’re like Josh, because we are surprised. We aren’t used to something that no one can figure out. We aren’t used to having to give up so much control. We’re not happy about this surprise, to be honest.
Still, like the boys on the Bangor team, we find new joys, and new surprises, and new delights all the time. Some of them are big, and many are small, but we find things which are unexpected and wonderful, and we rejoice.
And finally, like Ben, sometimes the surprises of our time hurt. Sometimes getting through more months of uncertainty and fear requires so much effort, that we just groan in pain. Sometimes, even when we suspect we are winning, we hurt.
In all these things, God is with us. God is with us when we lose something or someone we thought would be with us forever. God is with us granting us moments of delight. God strengthens us when we dig deep, and sustains us when we feel real pain. God is here. And with God here, we WILL reach the finish line.
When the Mt. Blue Relay race was over, Ben fell down just beyond the finish line, panting Josh’s name in awe. Ben’s teammates swamped him with joyful sweaty hugs. Josh’s coach congratulated him for a race well run. Josh and Ben gave each other an exhausted high-five. And so it will be, eventually, for us. But for today, we are, as the Apostle Paul (a big track and field fan himself) wrote, still trying to make it through our race:
Philippians 3:12-14 Common English Bible:
12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.