One of my favorite songs to sing in church is "Only This I Want." It's based on one of the Epistles. Part of the song goes like this:
I will run the race, I will fight the good fight
So to win the prize of the Kingdom of the Lord.
Only this I want, but to know the Lord
And to bear His cross, so to wear the crown He wore.
This song kept coming to my mind today as I sat in a seventy-year-old National Guard Armory and watched Big Brother run the mile.
I'd never been to an indoor track meet before today. It's a crazy environment. There's lots of noise, starter pistols going off, bells ringing, and constant announcements being made. There are coaches yelling times as runners zip by. Parents are clapping and calling out to the runners. In the middle of all the running, there are other athletes jumping over high things and throwing very heavy things. People are moving in all directions all the time. Several athletic contests are happening simultaneously. I counted five other schools that had the same school colors as Big Brother's, so it's hard to tell sometimes which ones are your teammates.
And there's a lot of sitting around, waiting for your turn. The runners are restless; they use their nervous energy pacing, jiggling, cracking knuckles. And suddenly in the middle of the garbled announcements they hear something that makes them get up and move with purpose to the table in the corner of the room to get ready for their race. Suddenly they know where to go and what to do, and they hope they can do it fast enough.
On cue, the runners line up at the starting line and wait for the pistol. They're running a mile, so they conserve as they run. They don't start nearly as fast as those running in the 200-meter; those kids are just a blur going by. You can watch the milers, see who is in the lead, watch them pass each other and keep track of the runner from your team. Coaches follow the runners for a bit and shout encouragement along the way.
Big Brother ran a good race. His stride was confident. He saved his energy for the end, but he had passed several runners in the middle few laps. The official clock stops showing times after the top six come in, but his coach kept track and showed him that he had not only achieved a new personal best, but beaten his goal for the day. He does not go to the meet with the goal of winning, but of doing better than he did last time. Today, he did not win--but he came in under 6:00 for the first time ever. That was his goal. He beat it by 3 seconds, coming in at 5:57.
How different are all of us from these runners? We too are in a noisy, chaotic environment. We have to listen carefully for the Voice that calls us to do what we are here to do. We must pay attention to the advice of those more experienced, with the goal in mind of achieving our own Personal Best. And only then can we win the prize.