Finish lines are fascinating. They exist in so many areas of our lives. But if you think about it, they don’t actually exist in the natural order of things. We create them and impose them on ourselves. They are uniquely human, and we are the only living creatures that use them. Humans not only have the ability to create finish lines, but we seem to require them in order to thrive.
For several years I coached track for both Elijah and Isaiah when they were young boys. Anyone who has ever raced knows how different are the emotions at the starting line compared to the finish line. The starting line is where we get nervous, excited and full of anticipation. Elijah would tell me how he hated the starting line because he would almost want to throw up from being so nervous. But the finish line was where all the excitement happened. That’s where the crowds gathered. That’s where emotions become bipolar. We know the excitement of celebrating victory, but we also know the sadness of feeling defeat.
The finish line tests our commitments. Sometimes we compete against others. Most of the time we set finish lines in our lives simply to compete against our own resolve. We call them goals and milestones. But the finish has no life of its own. The finish line doesn’t cheer us on. It doesn’t judge winners and losers. It cannot give out awards. Yet without a finish line, we would have a tough time measuring our progress and success.
Today our daughter Briana graduates from college. She’s our third child to cross that finish line. We’ll be there as a family to cheer her on, and the university will award her for her accomplishments. But her diploma is only a stepping stone to future opportunities. Briana will quickly move on to whatever is the next finish line in her life.
So even though we may cross a finish line completely exhausted, we know that a finish line is not our resting place. It is a marker that declares our progress. No one would expect an Olympic champion or a NASCAR driver to be hanging around the finish line days and weeks after finishing a race.
Sometimes people cross a finish line without anyone around to help celebrate. This is Memorial Day weekend, and we honor our fallen service men and women who died in the line of duty. Countless families have suffered the loss of loved ones without ever being at the ultimate finish line. All we can do is honor them from a distance.
And so it is for Elijah. He would have graduated this year from Minnesota Virtual High School. He never got to cross that finish line. Yet the school is awarding him at their graduation ceremony with an honorary diploma. In reality, Elijah crossed a much more important finish line. Alone in the woods, with only the Lord to judge his victory, Elijah finished his final race. Someday we will see him wearing his crown of righteousness. My personal hope is to cross that same finish line exhausted, victorious in my faith, and thrilled at being surrounded by Elijah and so many others cheering me to victory.
In the words of the Apostle Paul:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
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