Running the Race with Endurance
When I woke on Sunday morning, braving the cold and clutching my hands around my warm cup of Starbucks of coffee, I had no intention of walking the 13 mile half marathon, only what was “required” of me. God had other plans. Short of 2 miles in, while collecting clothing discarded by the runners, with our community group, I noticed a Mercedes Marathon participant walking alone, seemingly discouraged, and the last person in the race. I felt compelled to speak with her. Before I knew it, I was beside her asking if I could run alongside her. She began jogging with me for only a few moments before sharing that she was battling to breathe and didn’t feel like she could run. Naturally I was concerned for her, which resulted in walking together until her breathing controlled.
So there we were. A predetermined, God moment between a South African stranger from across the world, and a determined, middle aged lady from Memphis, Tennessee. The conversations would be endless. In my heart, I whispered to the Lord, desiring to know His purpose in our meeting. He needed me to remain by her side at all times.
Lois had been diagnosed with cancer in her left leg approximately 9 years ago. Doctors were able to successfully remove the cancer from her leg, with seemingly no problem. In 2012, she had another cancer scare, thankfully a false alarm. I was unaware of her past circumstance until roughly 3 miles in when Lois’s leg became a concern. “What did this do for your faith in the Lord?” I asked. Lois shared how her mother had passed at an early age of cancer, leaving behind her and her 6 siblings. Her father had been gone for a long time. Times were tough.
Lois had entered the race with a team, however, her team went ahead, leaving Lois to tread the road alone, which seemed to be a regular occurrence throughout her life’s circumstances. She was discouraged, alone, and ready to give up. 5 miles in, the rest of the community crew joined Lois. God had just given her another team. As we walked the road together, encouraging her and sharing stories, we were intrigued by how her feet met this road. As each team member drew nearer, I smiled sheepishly, knowing that the others were unaware of her story, but were a big part of the story God was writing in that moment.
Throughout the hills, twists and turns, we all continued to encourage Lois as we felt the Lord lead. Through her aches, her tears, and occasional cursing we continued to remind Lois of the source of her strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
There were times where the road was quiet, just waiting on the Lord, only desiring to speak from His heart, not out of the flesh. I remember passing a church building with a banner referencing Hebrews 12:1: “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and whispering in my heart: “Thank you Lord for the reminders of Your word when my flesh fails me.”
We talked about anything and everything, telling her silly stories, explaining why I was in America, serious stuff, and the nitty gritty. During those miles, it felt like we experienced every possible emotion.
8 miles in, Lois didn’t think she could go any further. 10 miles in, Lois was still walking. 11 miles in, her body screamed “I can’t do this anymore.” 12 miles in, “Are we there yet?” Tears welled up in Lois’s eyes as the end was in sight. She was tired. But she was victorious. The only time we left Lois’s side was as she crossed the finish line where we met her with glowing smiles of victory.
Lois was weak, but the Lord is strong. Lois felt defeated, but we hold on to the One who is Victorious. Lois crossed that finish line with a team of Christ followers who believed in the power of prayer, perseverance, and the Maker of heaven and earth.
You see, it was never about just picking up clothing. It never is. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9
Who is your Lois that you will meet this week? Maybe she is the cashier at the grocery when you stop for a jug of milk, or maybe she is the co-worker you walk past every day, but have never taken the time to know, or maybe it is your neighbor you should go meet with a warm plate of cookies. God has a Lois for you too. I hope you will watch for her, love her and get to know her. She has a lot to teach you about Jesus.
Today as I get up to reheat my coffee, I feel the aches and pains from the long road. Sweet reminders of the Lord’s goodness, His promises, and His Faithfulness. I already miss Lois. Will I see her again? When you walk 11 miles with anyone, you share a lot and you help each other grow. God used Lois to grow me. I asked God to speak to me all week and He did through Lois. I had been waiting and watching for Him and then He gave me all those miles. It was amazing! God also showed me the importance of courage, faith, endurance and obedience. Today I want to pray for Lois, as she is back at work. She is a cancer nurse and she sure has a lot to say to give encouragement to her patients from her half-marathon experience. Today I want to stalk Facebook and find my friend. Today I want to check on her and see if she is as sore as me and if she has the same aches in all the weird places. I will always remember Lois, the stranger I met around mile 2 who became the friend I hugged goodbye at the finish line. I love you Lois.