This morning, several of my friends ran the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. We made posters and woke up (semi) early to make sure we got a spot at the finish line to see our friends accomplish something amazing: running 13.1 miles before we would normally even get out of bed on a Saturday morning. While some of my friends might tell you they weren’t as prepared as they would have liked to be, they finished with grace and strength. It was incredible to watch. What I was not prepared for was how emotionally affected I would be by my sweet friends’ feet hitting the pavement over and over again all the way to the finish line.
We cheered as the first full marathon finisher approach the finish line right as we walked up, with a time of just over 2 hours and 15 minutes. What the human body can do is amazing. Praise God.
We watched a blind man, holding fiercely to two poles leading him, pace steadily toward the finish line. This one made me cry. Praise God.
We laughed as a young brother and sister squeezed their way up to the front of the fences. Grandma later told us that both their parents were running the half. What an example for your children! Praise God.
We cheered even harder when an announcer bullhorned, “First lady, behind you!” and the first woman to finish the full marathon rounded the corner, looking entirely too unfazed for having just run 26.2 miles. Praise God.
We hooted and hollered and our signs flew up in the air as we saw friend after friend round the last corner before the finish line. We screamed their names and waved and grinned and even if they didn’t see us, it didn’t matter. We were proud. They were living, breathing, running pictures of God’s faithfulness: the way he makes us come alive!
Perhaps the most poignant scene we watched at the marathon happened soon after we arrived at the finish line. I didn’t notice until it was already happening, but a woman began to collapse onto one of the fences right before finishing. It was scary and hard to comprehend how some people must be experiencing so much pain in the midst of celebration and joy all around. However, as quickly as she collapsed, what seemed like a dozen spectators around her began yelling for the medics and they ran to support her immediately. This was amazing. This is what redemption looks like: immediate validation when intense hurting happens.
For the past couple of weeks, I have had Ezekiel 37 on the brain:
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
Y’all, we are given these bodies to know that he is the Lord. Hallelujah! Why do we ever search for other purpose in life?
While we watched runners finish this morning, I kept being reminded of the dry bones passage. We were dry bones before hearing the word of the Lord. He gave us breath, he attached tendons to us, he gave us flesh and skin. He made us come to life. He made it possible for over 20,000 people to finish a race of 13.1 miles this morning. But especially when the woman collapsing was supported so well and so quickly, I was reminded of the dry bones passage.
What if instead of experiencing pain alone, we told people? And what if we responded quickly and lovingly to others’ pain?
“Dry bones, over here! Let’s bring her to Jesus, so he can fix this and make her well!”
We are dry bones without the Lord. He gives us other people, in community, to notice when we fall back into being dry bones, no longer filled with breath that speaks the Word and flesh that desires to do his will. It is not always easy to run this race. There will always be pain and people who need so desperately to be led back to the Lord for their dry bones to be revived. Me included. Followers of Christ included. There are really no exceptions to this.
He is our destination. We’re all just walking each other home.
And on a good day, we’re running each other home.