In the fall of 2019, our son texted me this picture indicating he had just completed a marathon in Leadville, CO.  A few minutes after sending the text he called and breathlessly told me that he had run the race with a time that qualified him to compete in a 100 mile ultra-race at Leadville in August 2020. Even though I celebrated with him, my first thought was, “Who gets excited about running a hundred mile race?!” Fast forward to last week, “Leadville is canceled for 2020,” he texted, “I can defer my entry to 2021.” I texted back, “What are you going to do about next year?” He quickly answered me, “I’m going to cross the finish line.” 

I haven’t been able to get that statement out of my mind. When I read that response from our son, I thought about those words in light of our current situation. What does it look like for us as followers of Jesus to have the desire to “cross the finish line” as we deal with a pandemic? Paul clearly stated what it looked like for him to live with that mindset when he wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27:  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Covid19 has changed all of our lives. We have been sheltering in place, discerning what it looks like to create meaningful worship gatherings, discussing how to creatively continue small group ministry, looking for ways to connect with families and students.  And the list of responsibilities for church leaders gets longer and more complicated as the situation continues.  Life for everyone has become more confusing and complex.  Simple decisions are no longer simple. Researchers have noted that we lose 50% of our intellectual processing abilities during a crisis which puts our emotional, mental, relational and spiritual health at risk. (ReachGlobal Crisis Response)

For many of us, “crossing the finish line,” feels like an elusive goal. Each day can feel more daunting than the day before and the thought of continuing to serve others seems challenging. The race we are in feels hard.  But I want to embolden you with this thought. Crossing the finish line is the goal that we need to keep in mind if we’re going to win the race.

In a spiritual way, we hold onto the hope that is in us, and the knowledge of eternal life helps us to persevere. But in a practical way, we need to think about what it looks like to “cross the finish line” every day. Daily finish line victories will add up to healthy rhythms, and healthy rhythms train us to win the prize at the end of the race. More than ever, during this season we cannot abandon the rhythms that strengthen us and help us claim the prize that Paul mentions. I’ve identified the following daily “finish lines” to help me maintain health and sanity.

  1. Spending time with Jesus every day. Listening to the Spirit so that my soul is renewed.
  2. Praying consistently for people on their spiritual journeys to be strengthened.
  3. Exercising to get the endorphins moving.
  4. Going outside and enjoying God’s creation (even if that’s just sitting on my patio).
  5. Getting good rest and sleep.

Your list will be different than mine, but accomplishing these activities have helped me to see, in a practical way, what it looks like to daily “cross the finish line,” and the completion of each one is a small victory that adds up to winning the race and coping with this difficult season.

I’m looking forward to the race our son will run next year; maybe I’ll even fly to Colorado to cheer him on. However, in the meantime, I want to be faithful training each day to ultimately cross the finish line where Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” May this challenging season be a time for each of us to maintain the healthy rhythms that are training us to run the race and “cross the finish line” that ultimately leads us to being with Jesus! And as we have opportunity, let’s cheer each other on to victory. You can do this!

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Deb Hinkel

Deb Hinkel

Director of Spiritual Formation at Hershey Free
Deb Hinkel is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Family Ministry at Hershey Free Church. She joined the church’s staff in 2015 after spending fourteen years as an assistant professor in the Church and Ministry Leadership department at Lancaster Bible College. Deb holds a Master of Arts degree in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College; and prior to her work there, she spent fifteen years in church ministry, developing programs in Christian education, children’s ministry, and women’s ministry.
Deb Hinkel

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