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Has life felt like a race to you lately?  It sure has for me!  Complete with all of its falls and finishes, victories and defeats!  Can I share my thoughts on the Race of Life with you?   A couple of photographs that I will share with you in a bit caught my eye and got me to thinking….

I will tell you right off that I am a little quirky.  I support three sports teams with gusto:  University of Alabama college football, Green Bay Packers, and the Texas Rangers baseball team.  I love this strange mix of teams….for various reasons that I don’t expect anyone to understand except those who know me well.  

So needless to say, this January of 2017 was disheartening to say the least for two of my favorite teams.  Just when you think they are about to win a really important game, the worst happens.  IN. THE. FINAL. MINUTES.

And you sit with your breath held, hoping that you can un-see what you just saw, your mind still unable to register the truth….they lost.

I read the follow-up articles, listened to several recaps, watched on TV, and sat in disbelief at the reactions from fans, coaches, teammates, and announcers.  So many varied reactions and responses to the games….

How can the same mouths that vehemently cheered the teams on during the last game turn so violently against the ones they supported mere days ago?  How do we shout for victory in one quarter and hurl insults in the next??  And all at the same players and teams???

What seems to define this nation’s loyalty is one thing:  You, the player, play the game the way I, the fan, want you to and when you win, then, and only then, will you have my undying support.

Sad….

Have you ever run a race, played any sort of sports, worked with all your heart and soul on a project, to find the ones who cheered you on yesterday are the same ones that condemn you today?  It hurts!  And it’s wrong!

I love Nick Saban’s attitude and response (University of Alabama’s football coach) after the loss to Clemson this January.  He summed it up quite well when asked how he felt after the game:

“One game doesn’t define who you are.”

Now that’s a man who can look ahead even hours after the devastating loss in this really important Bowl game!!  He saw ahead past the WHAT and remembered the WHO.  That one loss (the game) didn’t change the team (the who).  Can we grab hold of that mentality and transfer it to our lives and how we respond to others as well?  What a world changer that would be!

If you know me personally, you know I do not/will not/should not engage in any team sports activity at all!  It’s just not in my genetics, nor am I passionate about playing.  Watching is an entirely different matter.  But if you are like me and don’t call yourself a participant in sports, you still play the game of LIFE.  Every day your feet hit the floor you have stepped up to the starting line of that day’s race, that day’s game.  Whether you want to or not, you are in it.

So if LIFE  is a race (let’s go with that analogy for now), how has it been for you?  

If you’ve lived long enough, I am sure your race mirrors mine….

I’ve succeeded; I’ve failed.  I’ve run hard and fast and well; I’ve fallen flat on my face.

I’ve run sure-footed; I’ve tripped over my own feet.

I’ve run with strength and speed; I’ve run struggling the entire way.

I’ve blasted through the finish line and danced a victory dance; I’ve crossed the finish line only to collapse in the end. 

But what I have come to find out is this.  I can train, yet still fall.  I can discipline myself, yet still not finish like I wanted to.  I can focus, yet still get distracted.  The race is oh-so-important.  That’s HOW we get to the finish line.  But most importantly is how the race affects the racer.  We will either embrace our falls and learn from them, or allow those same falls to cause us to drop out of the race altogether.  We will either get back up and keep running or stay down and quit.

I’ve learned another thing in the race of LIFE.  I need people with me.  I need loyal people!  You know, the ones that are on my side whether I am running strong or falling flat.  I need those around me that will pick me up, help me refocus, show me the finish line, and cheer me on to the finish!

I especially need those who have made the same mistakes I have, who have experienced the same hurdles and muscle aches and trials that I know.  The ones who can be empathetic to my race.  (My personal definition of empathy is this: I can truly empathize with someone if I have been there/done that, did this/felt that.  Therefore, I can relate to your pain or hardship because I have experienced it firsthand.)

I need to engage with those in their race….cheering them on, remaining loyal and gracious when they fall, helping them get their eyes back on the prize, offering comfort when they hurt, and encouraging them through the moments when defeat blinds their eyes from victory that attainable. (Not be like the unadoring fans of the defeated football teams when the game THEY played didn’t go MY way!  Regardless of whether my team won, I still will remain loyal to them!)

I adore this passage in Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG):

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Those words should encourage any runner!!  Jesus is not only the One who both began and finished the race, but He did so through the same hardships we face, the same hurdles, the same pain, never losing sight of the finish line!  And think of all of those who have run the same race we have and completed it!

There is hope!  We can and will finish.  To use Saban’s quote, but change it up a bit,

“One race doesn’t define who you are.”

Thank God for that!  That means when we fall, we aren’t down for the count!  The race isn’t over if we trip or slow down or think we can’t make it!

I’ve just addressed the RACERS….now I would like to address the fans and friends of the racers.

We are both.  Racers and friends of racers.  We are all running this race together, making the same mistakes, sharing in the same victories, either cheering or, sadly, booing our opponents onward.  I saw a picture that literally made me stop and stare.  It captures the heart and soul of these words I am pounding out on my keyboard.

It embodies the race, the empathy, the comfort, the friendship, the loyalty, and the concern we should have for others.

The Race of Life (mytruwords.com) by Trudy Samsill

Do you see it too?  I just happen to know the precious girl in the maroon shirt.  If you look at these pictures, you will get a glimpse of her too, whether you know her or not.  What if we all aspired to do the same….bend down, lay down, comfort, encourage, inspire, help, and refocus our fellow-racers?  It WOULD change the world, and the race!

I challenge myself and you as well to begin to put this into practice.  Give grace where needed.  Help the fallen.  Encourage the discouraged.  Lift the down-trodden.  And help them win the same race you are running!

The Race of Life (mytruwords.com) by Trudy Samsill

(Mytruwords.com offers a very special THANK YOU to Abigail Davis and Karsyn Whitehead for the use of their heart-capturing moments caught in these pictures.  THANK YOU Mark Almond at Mark Almond/al.com for allowing me the use of these wonderful photos you took!! In no way did I depict the girls’ story during this track event.  I honestly don’t know the story that surrounds these pictures.  But they graciously allowed me to use them to enhance this blog post.  THANKS AGAIN!!)

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