The temperature was in the lows 80's. I was drenched in sweat and my legs pleaded with me for rest, but I overruled their petition and kept moving forward. I had been swimming, biking, and running in the Nation's Triathlon for over 3 hours. Last year, I was a chemotherapy patient and spectator, but this year, I was a cancer-free competitor. I had faced some unexpected adversity on the course and was really hurting during the final miles of the run.
As I rounded a corner, I saw my youngest brother, Jeff, waiting to run me in to the finish line. He came alongside me and said "You're almost there, Mike. Once you get over that bridge, you will see the finish line and everybody is waiting for you." His words put a little bit of pep in my step and we made it over the bridge. I swear that last quarter mile of road was paved with gold and the word, FINISH, sat atop the pearly gates. Every part of my body was screaming at me, but it didn't matter now. As Jeff veered off, I saw the grey cluster of Team Hoj shirts and the cheering got louder and louder; I couldn't keep my lips from quivering and the tears from falling. Crossing that finish line was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and the floodgates of my emotions burst wide open. All I could do was nod my head amidst handshakes, hugs, and congratulations.
And just like that, it was over. The race that had taken all morning to complete was finished. Months upon months of training had paid off. A year's worth of anticipation and preparation had suddenly vanished. I was utterly consumed by the joy of the moment and no longer felt the pain of last year's struggle. Only one word could do it justice: heavenly.
This race was just a reflection of life. Every affliction and trial that life brings our way has devastating potential because we can't see the finish line. We just want it to be over. We just want to quit. But Paul reminds us, just as he did the Corinthians, "For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:17-18).
This is one of our foundational hopes, is it not? Heaven is eternal and its joy is everlasting. The trials that brought us to it will no longer bring us to tears, but bring us to worship the One who brought us through them. When we cross that finish line, we will find true peace, rest, and fulfillment. I only got a taste of heaven this weekend and it has left me starving for more. The anticipation of running towards the Kingdom and hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant... enter into the joy of your master" is unrelenting.
Everyone has their own course marked out for them to complete. Finish it by the grace and strength of God's spirit, and give Him the glory when all is said and done.
|Considering the cancer chapter officially closed.|