Character in the Shadows

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Version)

The Olympics are the buzz right now. I have to admit--I have not watched even one event. Life has been too busy right now. But I have watched several interviews with athletes. Some have won and some have lost. Those that have won numerous medals have gotten the lion's share of the limelight. Securing the gold is the ultimate goal at the games. Those that have not won quickly fade into obscurity, even though they have worked just as hard and have wanted that medal just as much. Tremendous sacrifices have been made for years by everyone--the "winners" and the "losers."

All of us know what it is like to be the one that walks away without the medal and adulation of the crowd. It is a crushing, devastating feeling to realize that all of our hard work and sacrifice has gone unnoticed by others. We all know what it is like to have the shadow of another's day in the sun cast over us.

What do we do in the shadows of being overlooked? I believe our true character comes out. It is only when the path gets agonizing and the finish line seems so far away and unattainable that we realize if we are made of the right stuff. Anything that does not require perseverance on my part will never sharpen my character.

I once heard a story about a young man who had trained long and hard for a major race. In fact, this race was the culmination of years of bloody knees, sweat, and tears. He had a great chance of winning the race. But something went horribly wrong. The crowd gasped as he suddenly fell headlong in front of the spectators. Other runners kept going, determined to cross the finish line rather than to check on this young man's condition. He lay there, obviously in pain, but no one came to help. The crowd seemed to be frozen, except for one older man who came bounding out of the stands. He tenderly cradled the young man for a moment and then helped him to his feet. Using his comforter's shoulder as a crutch, the young man staggered to his feet. The finish line was agonizingly painful to cross.

The crowd sat transfixed. The other runners had long since crossed the finish line. There was no hope for a medal, let alone an honorable mention for this athlete. All those years...and now this! How unfair it seemed! Yet, suddenly in that moment of devastating loss, this athlete's true character came through. With incredible determination, the young man crossed the finish line leaning on the shoulder of his father.

Oh, girlfriends, where are you in the race? Are you bloodied because you have taken a bad fall? Does it seem that no one has noticed your sacrifices? No one applauds you for your faithfulness in taking care of your special needs child. No one pats you on the back for holding your family together. No one sees how desperately lonely, sad, and neglected you have been. Except your Daddy. Don't you know that He has seen everything? And when we call to Him, He comes bounding out of those stands to pick us up and cradle us in His arms.

"Here, my darling baby, lean on Me. Don't worry about where anyone else is in this race. Don't look to the left or the right. I am the One who gives the rewards. You don't have any strength on your own. That's why I am here. Lean on my shoulder. And when you cross that finish line with Me one day, there is a crown that can never be taken away from you. I don't care how bloody your knees are. All I care about is that you finish the race...with Me. Don't get discouraged. Don't let anyone take away your reward. Be faithful. I will never leave you or forsake you."

Let's do it! Let's run this race with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He will never desert us. He sees it all. He's the One keeping score.

Jesus, let my character in the shadows be what I project when all eyes are on me. I am not faithful. You are. Teach me to persevere. Give me eyes that do not look at anything or anyone else but my King who is waiting at the finish line for me.