My friend’s husband is in the throes of training for a marathon. When he first began considering this huge undertaking all those months ago, she championed his endeavor emphatically, encouraging him to go all in, to give anything it would take to cross that finish line and accomplish his goal. It wasn’t just something he wanted, it was something that she wanted for him. As month after month of his training progressed she cheered from the sidelines, taking pride in his perseverance and dedication. And now, as the date of the race approaches, his practice runs have necessarily become longer and longer, keeping him out running for entire mornings and whole afternoons. Quite frankly, my friend told me today, she’s ready for her husband to stop running. Ready for this darn race to be over so that their lives can return to his pre-training normal. She’s ready for the return of lazy weekend afternoons at home – no stop watches allowed. But as for now, this very afternoon, he’s out on another one of his endless runs. He runs and he runs and he runs.
He runs and she waits. She waits because it’s become clear to my friend by this point that this marathon has never really been about race for her husband, but has actually been about the running. Not the running to anything in particular, but the running from just about everything you can imagine. Because sometimes that’s just where life takes us.
So this afternoon as her husband runs, my sweet friend prays for an end. She’s praying, perhaps right now at this very second, for her husband to finally reach the end of himself. My friend prays that maybe somewhere out there on one of those never-ending country farm roads, as he times and as he paces and as he steadily breathes, that he will realize that he has finally exhausted his own efforts and maybe then he will finally be done. Done trying, done working, done running so hard to save himself from the battle he’s been fighting. She prays for an ending because she hopes against hope that when he gets to the end of himself, then that’s where he will finally find Jesus. Because isn’t that where Jesus is always found? At the end of ourselves?
Endings always seem to have such a bad rep, but I find them to be, at least in some way, almost always quite lovely. After all, I’ve never seen the end of anything that wasn’t the beginning of something else. And I don’t mean that in some overly romanticized sort of way. I’ve lived through an ending or two that I was absolutely quite certain would kill me at the time. But ever since the very first beginning, ever single end has began something else.
I remember the day I found my own end. All alone in that tiny apartment all the way on the other side of the world – the place I ran to find myself, funnily enough, was where, ironically, I realized how lost I was. How broken and fragile and downright ruined. After running and running and running, I finally broke down exhausted and collapsed into the oblivion of having no more of me to give. I had finally reached the end of myself. My worst fear had been realized: I had exhausted my own capabilities, used up all my own resources – I had nothing left. For all those years beforehand, I had feared the moment when I would finally find my end more than any other thing. It’s so funny, the things we fear – because coming face to face with my greatest fear actually brought the sweetest relief I had ever experienced. It was right there, somewhere in the midst of the fragmented pieces of my broke-down life, that I finally caught a glimpse of the Savior’s face. One irresistible glance of the saving grace which carried with it no expectations, just acceptance of who I was right then. At my absolute worst. The end of me was the beginning of His life in me. And that’s something worth running toward. You see, the Lord loves a good runner, he’s just aiming to change our course.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
So today my precious friend encouraged her husband to go on that four-hour run, even though truth be told, she would have rather had him at home. She opened the front door wide and watched him go, because sometimes that’s just about all we can do – encourage someone to run in the hopes that maybe today will be the day they run into the end of themselves.