It was a line up unlike any other. Wobbly knees, about fifty pairs of them, petered back and forth across the starting line. Standing at an average of two feet, the gusts of wind coming off the ocean sands were strong enough to cause more than a dozen pre-race spills. Swiftly behind every tumble swooped in a pair of parental hands escorting the little athlete back to their feet. Surrounding the roped off area of 26.2 yards – the race course – the Virginia Beach boardwalk was a green sea of spectators. Ellie, dressed as a pink and green little leprechaun, was lined up with the biggest of the one-year-olds at the front, rocking her pink tutu and her purple Nikes with a serious look of confidence.
The gun went off and chaos ensued. Ellie stood like a tree in one spot as dozens of new walkers breezed by her. Overwhelmed by the moving crowd, tears began to bubble in the nook of her eyes. She cautiously proceeded with tender steps towards me and the finish line when, at the same moment, an enthusiastic toddler elbowed her to the ground as he sped by her. The watered eyes turned into a full fountain and her cheeks glistened with the flow of tears down her face. Wiping her face and reaching forward, she teetered onward, her little chest rising and falling with each whimper and step.
The race went on, and so did Ellie. The finish line felt frozen and just out of our reach, as with each step forward Ellie took, she took two to the side or backwards. Her pigtails waving in the wind, she eventually progressed close enough to the finish line to catch a glimpse of her daddy, who was waiting, crouched over and with extended arms, waiting for her embrace. Seeing him evoked more tears and forward movement and she stumbled across the bumpy finishers line into his strong and protective arms.
Sometimes in the race of life our finish lines can feel frozen in time, much in the same way Ellie’s was during her Leprechaun Dash. When overwhelmed by the chaos of life, or frustrated with the winds that change our directions, we can easily lose sight of our destination and lose focus of what really matters, the loving arms of our Father that are waiting to embrace and welcome us.
What I learned from Ellie’s first race is that the point of a race isn’t to win, it is to participate. It is to continue towards the finish line, no matter what happens and to focus on simply taking one step after another. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that every step matters. As a parent, I beamed with pride over absolutely every single step Ellie took. I didn’t care where the other tiny toddlers were on the course in approximation to my little Ellie, I didn’t care that Ellie was practically in last place, I didn’t care that Ellie even walked backwards at one point, all I cared is that my little one was moving. And, that despite the tears, she kept moving. She pushed through a challenge and my heart burst with joy to see her stumble into new strength.
In the same way, God rejoices over us. He delights in each step we take. He cheers when we persevere through tears or stay strong despite the bellowing winds that try to push us off course. And, perhaps most beautiful of all, He has eyes for us, like any parent would. He doesn’t compare us to anyone else because He made us exactly to be who we are and He placed us in our own personal race in life; He sees us and He beams with pride.
We are all in a race…
Are you participating?
Are you picking yourself up after you fall?
Are you looking around and smiling at your compatriots?
Are you dressed for success?
Are you training?
Are you enjoying the journey or are you obsessed with the finish line?
Are you looking towards your Father who is waiting with arms extended?
Are you okay with some of the tears, knowing that sometimes they are part of the journey?
Are you aware of how proud God is of every step you take?
Carry on, child of God. Sometimes you might cry and sometimes you might feel overwhelmed, but there is no doubt that no matter what, God is cheering you on. Know that He celebrates your every step, so never let those tears keep you from crossing the finish line.