Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Run, Tami, Run

It was a marvelously bright, clear, cool morning, and hundreds of spectators had gathered on the hillsides to witness the Texas Regional Cross-Country Races at Mae Simmons Park. Most of the spectators were parents and family members who had traveled many miles, in some cases hundreds, to watch just one race. Their faces were intent, their eyes always fastened on the only runner they were interested in, and often when the runners were far away and could not hear their shouts of encouragement, still their lips would move, mouthing the precious, familiar names, and one other word. Sometimes they would say the name audibly but softly, as if for no ears but their own, and yet it seemed that they hoped to be heard.

"Run, Jimmy," they whispered urgently. "Run, Tracy, Run."

The cross-country race is two miles for girls, three for boys. It is a grueling run - physically and mentally exhausting - over hills and rough terrain. There were ten races that morning, beginning with class 5A boys and girls. Each race had from 80 to 120 competitors. The course ended where it began, but at times the runners were nearly a half mile away.

As the class 5A girls' race came to a close, I watched a forty plus year old mother - who was wearing patent leather shoes and a skirt and carrying a purse - run the last 100 yards beside her daughter.

She saw no other runners. As she ran awkwardly, her long, dark hair came undone and was streaming out behind her. Giving no thought to the spectacle she made, she cried,

"Run, Tami, Run! Run, Tami, Run!"

There were hundreds of people crowing in shouts and screaming, but this mother was determined to be heard. "Run, Tami, Run!" she pleaded. The girl had no chance to win, and the voice of her mother, whose heart was bursting with exertion and emotion, was not urging her to win.

She was urging her to finish.

The girl was in trouble. Her muscles were cramping; her breath came in ragged gasps; her stride was broken. She was in the last stages of weariness, just before collapse. But when she heard her mother's voice, a marvelous transformation took place. The girl straightened, she found her balance, her bearing, her rhythm - and she finished. She crossed the finish line, turned and collapsed into the arms of her mother.

They fell down together on the grass and then cried, and then they laughed. They were having the best time together, like there was no one else in the world but them. God, I thought, this is beautiful. Thank you for letting me see it.

As I drove away from Mae Simmons Park, I couldn't get that scene off my mind. A whole morning of outstanding performances had merged into a single happening. I thought of my own children and of a race they are running - a different and far more important race, a race that requires even greater stamina, courage, and character. I am a spectator in that race also. I have helped them train, I have pleaded, instructed, threatened, punished, prayed, praised, laughed, and cried. I have even tried to familiarize them with the course. But now the gun is up, and their race has begun, and I am a spectator. My heart is bursting - I see no other runners.

Sometimes their courses take them far from me, and yet I whisper,

"Run, children, Run."

They do not hear, but there is One who does. Occasionally they grow weary because the race is long and demands such sacrifice. They witness hypocrisy, and there are many voices that call to them to quit this race, telling them that they cannot possibly win. They lose sight of their goal, and they falter and stumble and I cry,

"Run, children, run. Please run."

And when they come to the last 100 yards - how I long to be there, to run beside them. What if I am gone, and there is no one to whisper, to shout, "Run" in their ears? What if they lose sight of the great truth that in this race, it is finishing that counts?

Dear God, please hear my prayer.

If they cannot hear my voice, if I must watch from beyond this arena, please run beside them as You have so often run beside me. Strengthen their knees that they might finish.

And when they cross that eternal finish line, may I be there to embrace them and welcome them home.

May we cry and laugh and spend eternity together.

Rocking Chair Tales - John Wallen Smith


mindi11 said...

wow. that was awesome! i really loved reading this tonight. thank you :)

deby said...

Because you're that kind of "mommy" (not mother), I can see you doing this Mindi.

Valerie Dykstra said...

Beautiful and poignant. Glad to see you blogging regularly after your little "valley time."

deby said...

and Valerie, I so wish that you were blogging again....I very much miss reading your wisdom, humor, and outlook on life.