Limping Across the Finish Line
Updated: May 24, 2019
My children's carpool was late this morning. Not that it mattered, since the knock on the door is what woke me up instead of my alarm an hour before. My second grader has been missing his backpack for a week. He carries stacks of papers home in his arms, dropping them every now and then.
Everyone needs a hair cut. Their shoes are looking shabby. It was cold and rainy today and not one of my children wore a coat. I quit packing lunches months ago. My kids don't like school lunch, but they've given up asking for fancy soup in a thermos or a salad where each topping is packed in its own adorably tiny tupperware container. We lost half the lids sometime in January.
Every morning I'm learning about some new concert, report or project. Usually it is mentioned as an afterthought as my kids walk out the door. I want to rail against the teachers for filling the last month of school with so much stuff when they know we are barely hanging on. But, I can't malign the teachers. I'm friends with enough of them to know that they hate May too. We are all in mile 25 of this marathon. Our feet are blistered, our muscles are seizing up, but we can see the finish line.
We ran so well back in September. With joy and enthusiasm we checked homework before it was turned in. We set out clothes the night before. We listened to our alarms. We didn't mean to stop, it just all became so hard and we were exhausted. Tomorrow on the last day of school, I will finish this race, but I won't be proud of how I ran as I come limping across the finish line and collapse on the ground.
Paul exhorts us in First Corinthians chapter 9 to "Run in such a way as to get the prize." (My end of school year parenting is not going to win me any prizes, friends.) In Acts 20 Paul tells the Ephesian elders, "My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me." We've heard these verses before. Christians love a good racing metaphor. But today, I want to stop and consider if I'm likely to finish my race well.
I've been training myself to slog through the rough stuff. I haven't learned to draw new joy and energy from God when my reserves are depleted. Runners practice their "kick" at the end of a race. They sprint the last stretch, giving everything they have right at the end. I haven't been practicing my kick. Instead of putting my eyes on God, I've been focusing my vision on the hard, exhausting things I no longer want to be doing.
But it's not just the school year that wears on all of us. Life itself is hard. We experience disappointments. We grow exhausted from all the hurting people we don't know how to help. The longer I live the more I see that saps my strength and wears down my resolve. Finishing the school year strong may seem like a small and silly thing, but maybe I should think of it as a chance to practice my kick, so I won't come limping across the finish line into the Kingdom of God when my race is run.