Eight years ago today I held my wife's hand as she passed into eternity. I am reminded of some quotes from the movie Spirit of the Marathon:
Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us.
That's what the marathon teaches you. It teaches you to keep going.
People run the marathon to prove that there's still triumph, that there's still possibility, in their life.
The marathon is every man's Everest.
And my favorite:
When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow or how fast, it will change your life forever.
26 miles and 285 yards. An inconceivable distance. There's no other competition like it. Basically, it's up to you. How dedicated you are. How willing you are to work. If your body can take it. Plus the sheer grace of God.
A marathon is the ultimate metaphor for life. Does it hurt? Yes. Does it require effort and commitment? Yes. But the payoff is out of this world. It doesn't matter what your goal is. Marathoner. Healthy eater. Patient mom. Writer. More diligent student. Divorce survivor. Whatever. You've got to push out of your self-imposed boundaries and never look back. Life isn't as simple as saying, "I'm going to overcome this obstacle in my life." You have to actually deal with it. You take a deep breath and you go one step at a time. When we have to, we all can do hard things.
When I stood at the start of my first marathon, I realized I was trying something that 99 percent of the population has never tried. You don't dream your way into a marathon. You earn it. Once they place that medal around your neck, it becomes a symbol of your willingness to not only dream big but to act on your dream.
To lose one's wife after 37 years of marriage involves a death to self, to all the dreams you had of growing old together, to the intimate fellowship you enjoyed not only as husband and wife but as brother and sister in Christ. Her passing forced me to confront my fears and sense of helplessness. But it also enabled me to see the presence of God in that place of loneliness and sorrow. It is he and not running that has erased my grief and given me peace. But running, in small ways at least, has been and will remain a large part of my recovery. I'm not even sure how it all works. God simply uses the stuff of ordinary life to mold us into the men and women he wants us to become.
I haven't stopped living. I have too wonderful a family for me to ever do that. Honestly, despite all the pain of separation from Becky, I have found immense joy in taking care of my family as a single dad. I hope to become better at it as the years go by.
Here's my invitation to you. Step out of denial and deal with whatever you've been given. Approach it head on. Face down your fears. Your place in Christ is secure. And his Holy Spirit is an unbelievable healer. Give your losses to Jesus. He can do something positive with them, I tell you. You can cross the finish line. When you reach a plateau in life, consider what you learned from that stage in life. And then unflaggingly pursue the next one with excellence. "May the Lord satisfy your needs and cause your light to rise like dawn out of darkness. May he give you strength of limb. May he cause you to be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isa. 58:9-11). May you always move in the direction of God's will.
As I face the challenges of growing older, of ever-changing relationships, of all the good and bad that life brings, I realize that I'll have to dig deep. And I can because through Christ I have a mighty reserve of strength. Thanks be to God.