July 25, 2016
Run to win.
Our family – at least, the next two generations – is at full strength; we’ve filled all of the seats on the family team bus, it seems, with Ben – adopted last year from South Africa as Grandkid #6.
He’s only been in-country for 16 months – and, he’ll be six next month – but he’s adapted quickly. He must have some remnant of his Zulu background, but it’s now been supplanted by his full-on American psyche. Proof: yesterday, on a SoCal freeway – with Cheri at the wheel – he was coaching her to “beat the truck!” as she passed the box van in the next lane. A back-seat driver – from a legally-mandated child seat! – who wouldn’t settle for “second place” on a road where there were no winners!
I run. I started in 1978, to lose a few pounds and rebuild my young-man ego. Back then, my pace (minutes-per-mile) was okay; my best time in a 10k was 39:30 (that’s a 6:22/mile pace; my 15-year old grandson runs a 4:46). Today – 38 short years later – I’m still running, but I no longer track my pace; my ego is now served by not computing that metric. Today, it’s not about speed; it’s become about endurance.
It may be summer, but the competition is heating up. This month, the conventions are putting the pit-crews into action for the two racers who will spend every waking hour – from now until November – in the race that will captivate the world. And, next month, the quadrennial Games will bring athletes from around the world to Brazil to run races, compete in events and win medals. The goal – for both competitions – is not just to participate: it’s to win.
And, in both settings, there are rules. Rules?
In the political marathon, there’s a continuing rumble over the question: have the presidential runners played by the rules? A “university” sued for shortcomings; a “foundation” questioned for misuse; an aspiring “first lady” charged with stealing speech verbiage; a former first lady/candidate chided – but not charged – for putting secrets at risk of malicious discovery. The point: if they haven’t played by the rules before now, how can they be trusted to enforce the rules if they win the race?
Enough controversy: politics and religion aren’t polite subjects to address in friendly banter, so let’s flip-off Fox and CNN and watch ESPN instead. Don’t we love “athletics” for the pure competition that avoids the deception and corruption?
Google Tom Brady and Vladimir Putin – hit the “news” tab – and catch their latest headlines. Whether it’s DeflateGate, or the redeployment of the KGB to the Olympic test labs in Sochi, we find the same lame question: can anyone be trusted to play by the rules, so that we can really celebrate a victory won without bad sportsmanship?
We’re created to compete… and wired to win. It’s so much of who we are that many will do anything – right or wrong – to acquire the prize. Is competing inherently evil… or, can it glorify God?
Paul’s answer to the question: “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:23-27)
Pick your race for the sake of the gospel. Train to compete at your highest potential. Start with seriousness. Play by the rules. Run to win. Expect a prize; you’ve earned it. Know this: if you cheat, you lose.