by John William Smith
I have a dear friend who lives in Dallas, and he has a daughter who is a very talented runner. The regional cross-country championships were held in my town, and he called to ask if I could pick up his wife from the airport and give her a place to stay while she was there to watch their daughter run. I was delighted to do it and so I found myself on Saturday morning witnessing the Texas Regional Cross-Country Races at Mae Simmons Park. I saw something there—a wonderful, moving thing—a thing of beauty worth telling and retelling.
It was a marvelously bright, clear, cool morning, and hundreds of spectators had gathered on the hillsides to watch. They were mostly family members who had traveled many miles—in some cases, hundreds of miles—to watch just one race. I had no child running, and so I found myself watching those who did. Their faces were intent, their eyes always picking out 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 said the names 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.
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 1A boys and girls and ending with class 5A boys and girls. Each race had from eighty to one hundred twenty 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 hundred yards beside her daughter. She saw no other runners. As she ran awkwardly—her long dark hair coming undone and 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 crowding in, shouting and screaming, but this mother was determined to be heard. “Run, Tami, run—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, faltering; she was in the last stages of weariness—just before collapse. But when she heard her mother’s voice, a marvelous transformation took place. She 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 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, that is so beautiful. Thank You for letting me see that.
As I drove away from Mae Simmons Park, I couldn’t get it 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 determined in that moment that my voice, too, would be heard above the rest. Like Tami’s mother, I would not be concerned about what others thought. I would see no other runners. Whether they were in first place or last, I would urge my children to keep going. And if they faltered and seemed ready to collapse, I would run right alongside them, my words a gentle and encouraging whisper that would lift them to the finish:
“Run, children. Run.”
We all weary at times of the race of life. The idea of even finishing whatever project or challenge stands before us, let alone of “winning” or doing it exceptionally well, can seem like an impossible hurdle. That is true of athletes, of businessmen and women, of pastors, of teachers—and most certainly of parents and their children.
Yet the Lord sees each of us in our weakness and discouragement, and has compassion on us: “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Psalm 10:17). Though we may feel alone, He is running alongside us, giving us the strength and encouragement we need if only we listen for His voice.
We’ll talk more this week about how the Lord encourages us, and how much He wants us to uplift each other. Why don’t you get our discussion started off right with a kind word for your spouse tonight?
- James C Dobson
“Run, Tami, Run” by John William Smith. From Hugs for Mom (West Monroe, La.: Howard Publishing Co., Inc., 1997). Used by permission.