Run . . . endure . . . agonize . . . persevere. The race track stretches before me and I have to run. It's a command--run with patience the race set before you. Except it isn't ahead of me. It's all around me and I feel like I've been running for a long, long time. And not just running. I've soared. I've stumbled. I've fallen. Most of all, I've plodded-one step at a time.
A memory--I'm nine years old and my brothers and I have a job picking strawberries at the neighbor's place a mile down the road and then another quarter or so after the crossroads. Having to walk to get there doesn't matter. At least not at first. The morning was cool and there's a certain excitement as we talked about the money we'd earn. The neighbor said he'd pay us twenty-five cents for every carrier we picked and we could hardly wait. Except the sun shone hot and the day stretched long. At 2 o'clock I stuffed a single dollar into my pocket and headed home.
The details of that walk are vivid. The boys took off ahead and I plodded along alone. A long stretch of road bordered by fields, meant sunshine all the way. A huge oak alongside the road offered a slight reprieve, and then more sunshine and a wooded area where sheep grazed. I fixed my eyes on the dense shade cast by the fir trees and trudged on.
More sunshine, but I kept going until the cool shade of the trees along our driveway welcomed me. My knees trembled by this time, and my face felt like it was on fire. I opened the door and stepped inside. My eye caught my reflection in the mirror in the front room. I couldn't tell where the red strawberry juice around my mouth ended and the sunburn on my cheeks began. But I had made it. I stepped into the kitchen. I was home.
But I'm not home yet.
Last winter my husband was hospitalized with a massive stroke. As I stood at his side I knew he was close to his heavenly home. And I--I was the one God had chosen to communicate His Word to the man I loved for so many years. I had been chosen to be with him on his last lap home; unable to speak or swallow, he still heard my voice. Every night, restless, weary yet unable to rest, he tossed and turned, fighting the sheets, the blankets, the bed rails; struggling against those things of earth that surrounded him.
That's when my Shepherd guided me to the 23rd Psalm. I leaned close and began to read aloud: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters-there was a sudden quietness. Bud's restlessness ceased. I continued reading; together we walked in the paths of righteousness, even into the valley of the shadows and then the banquet table in the wilderness.
I continued on: Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. A deep sigh, his eyes closed. And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. My husband slept knowing the arms of His Lord were around him.
Several days later I saw my husband home to be with His Father in his forever home in Heaven. A part of me wanted to go there with him, but within my spirit was the deep conviction that my Shepherd had work yet for me to do: family to serve, people to love and books to write.
Sometimes I run toward the goal. Some days, I find myself plodding along, one step at a time. But I'm not alone. My Lord is there with me.