Contrary to popular belief (or at least that of my 8th grade Logic class), I’m not old enough to have been around in 1968 when Olympic marathon runner John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania cramped up while running due to the high altitude of Mexico City. I didn’t see Akhwari, at the 19 km point of the 42 km race, get jostled by the other runners and fall badly, wounding his knee and dislocating that joint (not to mention hitting his shoulder hard against the pavement).
Akhwari finished last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started) in 3:25:27 (winner Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26) when the sun had already set and there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, Akhwari said this: “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
Inspiring, isn’t it? What a beautiful and powerful picture of human determination that brings to mind Paul’s words of spiritual illustration in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27:
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
With only four weeks of school left, it’s tempting for students, parents, and faculty alike to want to let down in the name of “close enough,” as if stopping short of the finish line is somehow the same as running through it. With this in mind, here are three practical ways to help us finish the race:
1) Consider who’s watching. It may feel like we’re in the stands watching our kids round this final corner, but the truth is we’re on the track as well and our kids are running right beside us. Will they see us turn the corner or cut it as we get closer to the finish line? Make no mistake: whatever we do will be the example they’ll follow (not to mention the justification they’ll use), not only at the end of this particular school year, but with each one still to follow.
2) Cling to liturgies. Routines and regimens have gotten us this far; now is not the time to throw these to the spring breeze. Bath times and bedtimes, homework hours and habits – these structures from the past eight months are able to stand yet one more, but we must trust them enough to continue implementing them with our kids. Don’t forget the importance of Sabbath worship and rest each week, either; as parents, we need both as much as our kids do.
3) Check our words. “For out of the abundance of his heart, the mouth speaks,” Jesus says in Luke 6:45; the question is, “what abundance is in our heart?” It’s true for adults as well as for our kids: when we’re tired, our words can betray in an instant what we’ve tried for so long to build across the school year. Are our words filled with truth, goodness, and beauty concerning ourselves and others, or are we sabotaging the good work of God with our speech?
As you lean into this next month, know that we as a faculty and staff pray daily for our Petra community in our 8 a.m. staff meeting. Please join us as we pray and plod across the finish line together, so that when Saturday, June 3rd comes around, we can look back with no regrets, embracing the truth that we were meant not just to start the year, but to finish it as well.
…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b)