Run with everything you have - why?

From Scott…

Our friend George Churchgoer is taking the week off. He’s out and about searching for a new stash of masks because he is expecting our virus situation to stretch for many months now.

And he is also a closet fashionista, torn between the tried and true blue paper masks and the GQ look. Can’t wait to see what he discovers as we all are now mandated to wear masks while out in public areas.

Some people complain that they have a hard time breathing while wearing a mask. In my case I breathe just fine – it’s fogging up my glasses that’s the annoying problem. But it’s the common sense thing to do – just wear a mask while out around others for the time being. None of us likes it – I hate masks personally – but let’s do this together now to insure a somewhat normal fall for schools and work and sports and all of us. This too shall pass.

One positive aspect of this unprecedented situation we’ve been in – always look for the positive – is the incredible number of online meetings, webcasts, webinars and “zooming” that’s been available, and a lot of it for free.

Over the last four months I’ve lost count of the online sessions I’ve attended and ones I have hosted. Just this week alone I’ve been a part of ten such events. Later this month the company I work for will hold four DAYS of such live meetings online – it’s truly a brave new world and some of it won’t revert back once this virus is eventually just a bad memory.

But earlier this week I viewed a remarkable live online broadcast featuring comments from around America and Europe on educational equity and racism. Seven speakers from various schools offered their insights and ideas on this challenging new school year about to begin.

The George Floyd incident in Minnesota two months ago rekindled the debate over those two subjects, equity and racism, but this time it seems to be sticking. Could this strange virus situation have somehow amplified that debate to the point where people are now paying attention? Being stuck at home for most of the last four months has perhaps given people more time to consider injustices and inequalities? Seems odd but it’s something to think about…

The speakers in my online event all had thought provoking comments during the proceedings, but it was a comment from one gentleman that really grabbed my attention.

A veteran school administrator from Ohio remarked on advice given to him by his father many years ago. The fact that they are African American perhaps made the comment go a little deeper…

“When death catches me I want to be out of breath.”

The meaning – the man’s father told his son that he wanted to be able to do everything he could, give that 100 percent, leave nothing left to do and use every ounce of energy, before it was his time to depart this earth.

I remember pausing for a moment – then I reached for my notepad and quickly scribbled down what he had just said. Good words always need to be written down.

Other people who were commenting in a chat window next to the online broadcast all started saying “what did he say? What was that again?”

The other speakers then had their say on many different questions being discussed, but it was this one comment that has dominated my thinking ever since.

What does it really mean to give 100 percent? Or sometimes 110 percent which is probably not really possible but you get the idea – what does that MEAN? How do you give EVERYTHING?

Sports coaches are always admonishing their athletes to give it their all, leave everything out on the field or on the court or on the course. No regrets, give it everything you have.

Almost immediately I thought about the Bible. And it’s interesting – when I did some web searching about the Bible and “giving everything you have,” the results were all about generosity and giving money.

Sorry Google, wrong answer. No, this took some deeper digging. This isn’t a financial issue, it’s much more of a spiritual issue.

There’s the story from Genesis 32 about Jacob wrestling with the angel. He spent a night alone on a riverbank when a man appeared and they wrestled all night to daybreak. The angel should have won hands down but Jacob gave everything he had to essentially earn a draw. Later the angel gave him the name Israel and blessed him and those that followed him.

Of course there’s the story of Jesus, someone who literally gave it His all to the point of death on a cross. On numerous occasions He could have changed course, taken a different path, gone the easy route. Instead He followed His Father’s command because it was what needed to be done to show His followers and all of us about the promise of eternal life.

And from 2nd Timothy is the apostle Paul’s strong advice to his young friend, with some prophetic words for our world today…

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4: 1-8 NIV

One thing I still try to do when I have some available time is go outside for a walk, jog and run. I’m blessed to live in our valleys and near my home in Brush Valley is a four and a half mile route that I call The Loop. It starts at my house and ends at my house. And it’s not all flat – up hills, down hills, up hills again.

One thing I do is mix in a few sprints to really get my heart pumping. No, I’m not nearly as fast as the Scott of a younger age. It’s a real effort to push it down the road as fast as I can. And when I finally pull up and resume a fast walk my lungs are sucking air like it’s running out. I’m heaving and it takes a couple of minutes for me to get back to normal breathing.

And I’m reminded of that gentlemen’s comment from earlier this week. Am I living my life the way that I run that course? Sometimes as a spirited walk, sometimes as a steady jog – but then sometimes running flat out with everything I have?

We are faced with so many challenges today. This virus has proven it won’t go away easily and it will take time and combined effort to finally vanquish it.

The stain of racism and inequity, for those who are Black and others as well, won’t go away easily. It will take time and combined effort to finally erase those inequities.

The rising tide of secularism and disdain for religion around the world, what some “itching ears want to hear,” or “turning away from truth,” won’t go away easily. It will take time and combined effort to overcome it.

And all of that will only happen when all of us give that 100 percent, just like that gentleman’s father told his son all those years ago.

Let us not regret that we could have somehow done more and chose not to. We could have done a little extra and decided against it. We could have contributed and passed on the chance.

When we take the time to look there are opportunities all around us. Opportunities to fight the good fight, to run and finish the race, to always keep the faith. Let us do so, right to the very end whenever that may be.

God is watching…and rooting for us…