Recently I lost a dear friend and high school classmate to cancer.
Since Jim was a world-class runner, I often think about him while running.
The day after his funeral, I decided to go for a run but dreaded it because I hadn’t run in more than a week and knew it would be difficult.
I started strong, but with each mile it grew more difficult to understand how Jim or any human could endure an ultra marathon, 50 miles.
At mile 5 I was enjoying all the beauty around me, but by mile 8, I doubted I could finish. By mile 9, I was gasping, my gait slowed to a limp, and my hips hurt so badly I wanted to cry. I just kept thinking, “Go to the next telephone pole. Make it to the next mailbox.”
At dusk, the scenery grew dim, but I saw the lights of my house in the distance. I became completely focused on getting home: seeing my family, resting and being refreshed. Nothing else compared to this end—no chirping birds, no red and gold leaves, no fitness goals. Home meant everything.
At the last mile, I thought of several friends who passed recently. All fought diseases that wore them down with each passing week or month much as the miles were taking their toll on me.
For so long, they relished their journeys and were not ready to head home. I wondered if there came a time when everything around them, while still lovely, began to dim as the lights of “home” became brighter.
Parting from people we love is sad, but the sadder thing is to be in a race with no goal in mind. Merely to run and run and run through life stopping only for one novelty after another is very tiresome.
I know some don’t believe we can have an assurance of a “home” at the end of our lives. I couldn’t see my house at mile 8, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there.
CS Lewis said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Faith in Christ isn’t “pie in the sky.” It challenges you to find meaning in suffering and death and prompts your spirit to admit, “This is hard truth” when truth must be faced, whether or not it’s politically correct or raises even more questions, such as, “Why Jim?”
As I grieve, I remind myself that Jim was not ultimately made for this life, beautiful as his life was with his family. He fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7).
So now, at the end of each run when I re-live the joy of returning home, I take a second to think about Jim, who is really home, and that brings me an even deeper joy.