My four year old daughter and I attended a birthday party for one of her school friends last weekend. At one point, the rink staff cleared the rink and allowed the skaters to participate in races. In an effort to prevent a pile-up of 4 to 6 year-olds on wheels, this youngest age group was instead encouraged to participate in a "sock" race. Same concept, minus the four wheeled weapons, which could easily cause a concussion. One lap around the rink, first one to the finish wins. My daughter wanted to participate and I rooted her on, secretly doubting that she would actually follow through. Most of the kids out there were boys, and they were all older than her, with the exception of one.
So, the teenage race leader blew the whistle and they were off. I truly expected my little one to quit before she got half way around, as she is very prissy, hates to be hot and sweaty, and generally shuns exerting herself. However, to my utter surprise, she ran like the wind. Her long skinny legs kicking smoothly back and forth in perfect form, her arms pumping her all the way to the finish line in the middle of the pack. She had given it her all, and she was thrilled to just finish. She bounded up to me, shouting, "Did I win the race like you do, mommy?".
Now, I didn't have the heart to tell her that she didn't win and that though her mommy is an avid runner, she has NEVER won a race in her life. Not even close...not even semi-close. I have, in fact, come very close to winning last place in a race. (The 70 year old power walker stole that title from me just barely.) Nevertheless, I didn't think my little girl would understand the purpose of running a race, knowing that you won't actually win it, and I certainly didn't want her to feel the least bit discouraged to try something out of her element in the future. So, I looked her right in the big innocent blue eyes and told a bold- faced lie. "Yep, just like mommy".
The fact is that conventional medical "wisdom" tells me that I should not be exerting myself. I should not require my muscles to work so hard that they get fatigued and torn. As a muscular dystrophy patient, I should just be sitting back, watching my body deteriorate, my muscles wasting slowly. I should see the writing on the wall and not even bother with running or any other endurance activity. I should join the senior citizen's water aerobics class and sport a flowery swim cap, letting my feet softly bounce along the floor of the pool, and call it water jogging.
Why, oh WHY do I even bother with running races? I guess all runners do it for differing reasons. For me, it's this: each time I cross a finish line, I want to scream, "see what God gives me the strength to do, despite the fact that it doesn't make sense?!" I do it because I actually enjoy the physical challenge and mostly because it increases my faith. I grow each time I cross a finish line. That's probably the answer I should have given. The wisdom filled, "No, honey, you didn't win first place, but you are a winner just because you tried your best. It's all about personal growth." Or not. That would have been pretty tough to explain too.
My point is this: In running and in life, don't fail to run the race just because the odds are against you or because you think you may not win. Mathematical odds tell you that it's not likely anyway, since there can only be ONE winner. But, growth is a result of just running in the race. You finish one and realize you really can do, and really LONG to do another...and another...and another. Before long, you begin to believe that you really can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens you, simply because you weren't afraid to get out there and try.