In High School I ran the 120 High Hurdles (yes, I could jump over them) and the 180 Low Hurdles. In hurdling their are some things you must do to get the best running time. One thing you must do is clear the hurdle as close as you can. Our coach would say, “You need to be able to knock a dime off the hurdle without hitting the hurdle itself. In my hurdle style all the dimes were safe, but I was pretty good at getting close to the hurdle. Another important part of hurdling is to get your steps right in between the hurdles so that your running motion was fluid and uninterrupted. If you don’t have your steps right your time goes way up and you probably won’t do well in the race. I remember one particular race at our conference championship. We were trying to win our overall conference championship and the hurdles was a big part of ensuring that victory. My best friend, Roger Wray, was our best hurdler and I was somewhere behind him in team position and trying to move up. We were getting ready for the qualifier to make it to the finals and I saw Roger warming up and I thought, “Why can’t I be as fluid looking as Roger when I run?” My race was full of choppy mistimed steps so that I looked very awkward at best. That’s when I really focused in on how he ran up to the hurdle, how he landed and then moved on to the next one. When I started warming up I tried to imitate his hurdling motion and to my surprise, it felt great. So great, that I made up my mind I was going to try my newfound hurdling style in the race. I got down in the blocks and waited for the gun. Bam!! I took off and approached the first hurdle with great confidence and made my jump and then concentrated on my steps to approach my second hurdle, and then the third, fourth, and so on. It seemed so effortless when running the race, and to my surprise, I finished second in my qualifier and made it to the finals. My coach came up to me and said, “What’s got into you?” I told him about my new style and he told me if I keep it up in the final, I will get a conference medal. Of course, Roger was first in his heat and we both rejoiced that we would be racing in the final together.
The finals came and I got in my lane and thought to myself, “If I can keep it all together and really turn on the jets, I can medal today. That truly excited me and I got down in my blocks ready for the gun to sound to start the race. Then it happened….Bam!!! Bam!!! Someone had jumped the gun. I turned around to see they had put a red flag in my lane. Oh no! One more jump and I am toast!! I won’t even get to race!! So I decided, “I am not going to jump the gun, but play it safe.” I compensated too much, and my start was much slower and I felt like I was in another race behind the race in front of me. I thought about just giving up, but decided to try to make up the distance even though they had a big jump on me. In my mind I thought, “They are smoking me.” I felt so powerless. But, I remembered to keep my head and do the one thing that had helped me improve my time….my steps. I turned on the speed and from out of nowhere, I started to close the gap. I could even see Roger now and saw that there were only three hurdles left and I was flying. I crossed the finish line right behind Roger and got second in conference. Woo hoo!! In looking back I remember that Roger, who got first in conference, was only about two feet in front of me at the finish line. Had I started better, I might have one first! I was totally happy and our first and second in the hurdles helped our team win the conference championship. Our coach was on cloud 9 and feeling fine. It was so encouraging to me and all that running to start the track season was worth it.
Why the improvement? First of all, I had good speed. Secondly, I learned how to run the hurdles in the best possible way. Thirdly, I concentrated and met each hurdle with confidence, believing I could do it. End result? Medals..
In Paul’s letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7 he wrote, “This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.” Life is a huge race and when you decide to run it for Christ, you will have hurdles along the way…guaranteed! Those hurdles are not meant to stop you, but develop you. How? Just like me learning to get my steps right, these hurdles in life make us develop our walk, or run, to be as efficient as possible. With Christ as our example, all things are possible, and the hurdles of life are just that…things to jump over, not stop us. I agree with Paul, that this is the only race worth running, so run it as good as possible, with Jesus as our example of how to run it. Sit back and learn from the Master Hurdler and see how you can run the race and keep the hurdles from slowing you down.
The Pilgrimage continues…..