For most of my life, I've dreamed about what it would be like to be a professional athlete. I've thought about the feeling I would have listening to the Star Spangled Banner under the lights of Madison Square Garden. I've contemplated throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.
And my favorite and most recurring fantasy, I've pondered the feeling I would get as I hit a walk-off homerun to win the 7th game of the World Series. (And yes . . . I've even practiced my homerun trot.)
Alas, none of these will ever happen. My life hasn’t ended up the way I dreamt when I was a young boy, so I had to settle for 'taking my talents' to the old man softball field. And, I'm ok with that. Really. It's fine. But little did I know what awaited me at the finish line of my first marathon.
Running a marathon was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, ranking right up there with the week I spent commercial salmon fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska. (That's another blog for another day.) It took a huge toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But, as I crossed the finish line of this 26.2-mile race, it was as if I was transported into a whole other world.
Where Am I?
The first thing that I noticed in the few seconds after finishing was that the pain I felt throughout much of the race had subsided tremendously. In conjunction with this feeling, there were people there to greet me, congratulate me, and give me water. They wrapped me in a robe to help me get warm, and they took my picture.
Then they pointed me toward the feast that was prepared and told me to eat as much as I wanted. Seriously! No homerun trot could be better than this! There was fruit, Gatorade, Jamba Juice, frozen yogurt, bagels, and more. Everyone was so happy I was there. It was as if they had been waiting for me for a long time. This seemed like a place I had heard about before . . .
'Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore' (Revelation 22:1-3).
The finish line of my marathon was a little taste of heaven. Once I got there and was showered with so much love and joy, all the pain and struggle of my race made sense. But without these difficult times, the celebration at the finish line wouldn’t have been as special.
Your Life has a Finish Line
Every single one of us is running a race called life. In this 'race,' there will be good times and bad. There will be times of happiness and times of suffering. And while all of us would love to find perfect joy in this life, we never will.
Life is hard. We will feel pain, but the pain we face as we struggle along in our journey will one day make sense as we reach our 'finish line' and experience perfect joy for all eternity in heaven. It is here where we will be welcomed for who we are, congratulated on the 'race' we ran, and showered with an eternal feast the likes of which we could never have imagined. You see, no matter what we may face in this life, it's worth it because of what lies ahead in the next.
- It's in heaven where we realize that we were capable of more than we thought.
- It's in heaven where our plan to grow in holiness is fulfilled in God's greater plan of salvation.
- It's in heaven where the little things we do each day to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ fully pay off.
- It's in heaven where the pain and suffering we faced in our 'race' is completely wiped away.
- It's in heaven where we experience an eternal celebration with the community that was cheering us on.
- It's in heaven where the investment of our whole heart makes us richer than we could have ever dreamed.
- And it is in heaven where we finish what we started when we chose to journey through that narrow gate and down that constricted road (Matthew 7:14).
Every second of my training for the marathon was worth it. All the time. All the energy. All the suffering. All the sacrifice. But it didn't fully make sense until I crossed that finish line. So whatever 'race' you are running, whatever time you are spending with our Lord, whatever energy you are putting into your battle to live a holy life, whatever suffering you are experiencing, and whatever sacrifices you are making to grow closer to Christ, remember that this life is only a training.
And while you may get a taste of heaven from time to time, all of your effort will not fully make sense until you reach the ultimate goal, salvation of your soul and eternal life in heaven (1 Peter 1:9).
Read more from Eric about the lessons he learned while running a marathon: