Watching the Winter Olympics reminds me afresh that I am not an athlete. I will never swoosh and carve my way down slopes of sugary snow to a proud place on the podium. I will never have an athletic shoe named after me. No cereal box will ever sport my smiling face.
Still, I trot laps around the health club each morning. Daniel Webster says that to trot means: to go at a gait between a walk and a run. That pretty well describes what I do…and I do it as fast as I can.
Which is not very fast at all.
Compared to the real runners who sprint by me, I am a rock in a stream. They flow past, counting the times they have lapped me (or so I suspect) to measure their progress. On occasion, I share their glory and pass a few folks myself. The octogenarian who scoots along behind her walker, for instance. The mom baby-stepping hand-in-hand with her pajama-clad toddler. The guy who stops to fiddle with his Ipod. Those are the rocks in my stream.
That said, I do strive each day toward what Olympians call their personal best. It’s a best I thought could never inspire anyone until a couple of days ago when, post-trot, I was accosted by a gleeful fellow-rock. “You set a good pace!” she said. “I tried to keep up with you but I couldn’t!”
Checking for signs of sarcasm I found none. So, astonishment masked, I shot an aw-shucks smile her way. “Geez, you’ll be passing me in no time!” I said, wishing it weren’t so true. Then I chucked her on the shoulder jock-style. “Just hang in there!”
I’ll admit it. For a split second in my own mind, I was wearing the gold. An athletic inspiration.
Then sanity returned. When it did, this occurred to me: In life as on the health club track somebody is always running behind us. We may not be aware of it, but someone is always there, panting at our heel, watching how we live…how we love…how we believe. And we are either inspiring them to pick up their pace. Or not.
No wonder Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “…stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong” (NLT).
In this race called the Christian life, somebody behind us is looking for a reason to run a little faster and a little stronger. In this sprint for eternal gold, someone is following us.