This summer, I had the pleasure of watching Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race. The race is an annual tradition in Atlanta with over 50,000 runners running through the streets of Atlanta over a 5K distance. How these runners managed to run that distance through the heat and humidity is beyond me. Each race begins with wheelchair racers who are followed by world-class runners and then the masses of amateur runners. In prior years, I had never witnessed the wheelchair racers so I wanted to make a point to see them this year and I can tell you that I was not disappointed.
It was truly amazing and inspirational as I watched the wheelchair racers speed down Peachtree Street. I watched as athlete after athlete, all with physical disabilities refuse to allow their adversities to hold them back. There were athletes of all ages and 3-wheel racing wheelchairs of all colors and sizes. The more I watched these inspiring athletes, the more I was reminded of my own Christian faith.
It would have been so easy for these wheelchair racers to not even enter the race at all. They could have stayed home and not gone through the tremendous preparation necessary to even run in the race, but they didn’t. They entered the race. They took the necessary steps to be prepared. How many times in my Christian life have I failed simply because I didn’t enter the race?
The racers were visibly excited despite all of their handicaps and setbacks. Neither their disabilities; the heat; their pain; nor any other obstacle seemed to discourage them. They pushed through all that life and the race through at them and they still managed not to look discouraged. What a lesson we call learn about carrying on when everything around us points to discouragement.
One thing I noticed about each of the wheelchairs themselves was how sleek and efficient they were. They appeared to be made out of extremely light material and had the bare minimum equipment necessary for the rider. The racers themselves were wearing wind resistant clothing and had no unnecessary equipment or baggage. There was nothing any racer had in their possession that would bog them down. As we pursue our race in life, I’ve learned over the years to make sure that I don’t burden myself with unnecessary baggage or have unnecessary obstacles in my life that would disrupt my path or goals.
As the dozens of wheelchair racers streamed past me, it struck me how focused they were on the task at hand. Hundreds and hundreds of spectators were waiving at them and cheering them on, yet their eyes were laser focused on the goal ahead and the finish line. As I think back on my failures as a Christian, most were due to lack of focus. I allowed circumstances or other people to distract me from my overall God-given purpose.
Running our race in life with endurance is not an easy task. As you do so, remember the lessons I learned watching those great wheelchair racers that hot summer day in Atlanta: make sure you at least enter the race; don’t get discouraged; eliminate obstacles and barriers; and stay focused on the goal and the finish line.