When she was a little younger, our daughter ran marathons. She still runs for fun, but doesn’t do the rigorous training any more that a marathon requires. Before she started running I had realized what a fun spectator sport a marathon is. We would go with her to her races to be her cheering squad. We would map out her route and pick strategic spots to wait for her in order to cheer and encourage her. Marathons are fun! There are crowds all along the route, cheering, ringing cowbells, and playing music, even if they don’t personally know the runners. We would see her at the starting line and then drive ahead in our car, or in big cities, take the train in order to arrive at locations ahead of her. Sometimes she would ask us to be at certain spots where she knew she might need an extra bit of support, maybe a particularly difficult segment of the route. And of course we wanted to be at the finish line, to witness her crossing the finish line and to hear her name announced. To see her receive here medal. Proud parent moments.
There are multiple verses in the Bible that compare living our lives to running a race. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to run with endurance the race that is set before us. We each have our own race to run. Parts of it may be relatively smooth, even joyous, while other parts are tough, like running uphill with a strong wind against us. Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
I was thinking about these things this morning as we prepare to celebrate the life of a friend who has crossed his finish line. If I use the marathon analogy to think of our friend Don, he could be compared to those special runners called elite runners. They are different from the other runners; they are world-class athletes. And they live their lives differently, spending hours training and recovering, and eating healthy foods. They are committed, keeping at it even when they don’t feel like it. They are dedicated to running well. My friend lived his life differently too, spending hours studying and teaching and living the Bible. He was committed to his Lord. He ran his race well.
As I have been thinking about these things, I have been wondering again what the death process is like. I suppose people have thought about that since the beginning of time. What is it like to cross over from this life into the next? For those of us who are Believers, we know that when we leave this body we go into the presence of he Lord (I Cor. 5:1-8). But how does this happen, what does it look like? In my mind, death is like the last leg of a marathon. The spectators are the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews. They are cheering us across the finish line. In my imagination, those who are waiting close to the finish line are our loved ones who have gone before us, cheering us home. And at the end stands Jesus. Instead of receiving a medal, I want to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” No doubt, my friend Don heard those very words. Today as we celebrate a life well lived, there is a celebration in Heaven also. A saint has crossed the finished line and arrived at home.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15