On Sunday morning, I ran a race. Actually, more accurately, I put one foot in front of the other, very slowly, sometimes running, often walking, for 3.1 miles. When I signed up, I had high hopes of being in shape by the time this race came around, but the honest truth is that before crossing the starting line, the only running I'd done in over a year was chasing my toddler at the playground. I was (and am!) woefully out of shape.
Still, it was a gorgeous morning, and as I pushed the jogging stroller around the front of the Capitol building, I couldn't help but be thankful for the opportunity to participate. There was beauty in the glistening sunshine and the hum of the crowd in an otherwise quiet city, and there was even deeper beauty in the thousands of people running and walking for love, carrying the names of those lost to and those fighting brain tumors on their sweat-drenched backs.
I'd sent CJ and Ellie on ahead after the first half-mile, knowing I'd only slow them down, so it was just a sleepy Celia and I as we neared the finish line. "Go Moms and Dads!" cheered a supportive onlooker from the sidelines to myself and several other parents with jogging strollers close by.
To my left, one of those dads suddenly slowed to a stop, lifting a toddler out of her seat and setting her feet on the ground. I realized what was happening as I passed them by. He was letting her run the last 100 yards or so of the race. How sweet, I thought, what a great way to give a kid a positive running experience, to let her taste the joy of the finish line even though she's not old enough to do the real work of getting there herself. I made a mental note to tell CJ what I'd seen, to suggest we let Ellie try something similar at the next race.
It wasn't until the next day, when I thought back on that moment again, that I heard the gentle whisper of God's voice illuminating what I'd seen: You are like that little girl, Abby. So often in your life, I've let you cross the finish line. I've let you taste the adrenaline rush and the thunderous applause and the outstretched hands. And like that little girl, you've thought you'd run a race, been proud of your accomplishment. But the truth is, I carried you. I pushed you. I set your feet down near the finish line, when all you had to do was take a few, simple steps.
I thought back on all my successes in life, and I realized it was true. My childhood, my education, my mind, my financial resources, my health, the care and support of my friends and family - these are all gifts that have been given to me by God, gifts that have enabled me to go to school, to write, to care for my family. And yet, so often, I've thought that I've been responsible for my successes in these areas, that I have achieved by my own strength and determination. In short, I've been proud.
But in His mercy, God is beginning to show me glimpses of what has always been true - that behind each little victory in my life, He has been there for a long time, pushing me along, carrying me through the difficult patches, and in His kindness, allowing me to taste the joys of the finish line.