Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Don't Make Me Drop this Sign"

"I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able..." Revelation 5:4 The Message

The race is over.

Another "first-timer" finished the Ironman competition in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. My son (and I) had many "moments" of discouragement and doubt during the 140.6 miles of endurance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 miles to run). He finished the race set before him in 15 hours and 18 minutes. It was no record (the winner finished in 8 1/2 hours) but it certainly was a fete few can match or ever hope to achieve.

After the race as he was settling down, he expressed story after story of what kept him going during the long grueling hours of the day. He shared the poignant as well as the humorous (more updates to come) and how each had played a part in his ability to finish.

When we arrived in Coeur d'Alene we DROVE the bike course and the marathon course. He saw the hills and the challenges beforehand. He knew what he was in for. But in the end, he said, "nothing can prepare you for what it takes mentally to keep going."

When I commented on my surprise at how many women were competing (and finishing) and that they certainly were not all tiny, skinny, young athletic looking girls, he said, "Women can endure more pain, they can "dig deeper" in their minds better than men can."

Hmmmmm

He asked if I remembered a house at the bottom of the long, hard hill on the course. The front yard faced the lake and the Colonial architecture impressed us both.

*"I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan..."

He laughed as much as the pain in his ribs would let him as he spoke of the owner. "This guy was outside in probably just his underwear holding a sign (front and back) that read "Don't make me drop this sign." When he would see the runners struggling, he would approach them and just start saying, "you aren't going to make me drop this are you? People will scream. I'll probably get arrested. You can do this - just walk with me to the end of the block, and I'll keep the sign up."

If you're in Texas, naked with a poster board sounds pretty good in 106 degree heat, but race day in Coeur d'Alene never got above 68. That's a commitment to seeing people through; people you don't know, people who are not your friends, not your family, people you will in all likelihood never meet again.
I cried when I saw my son struggling knowing it was his race, knowing I couldn't be out there with him. I felt helpless not knowing where he was on the course. But by the end of the race, I was assured of my contribution to the day and to the lives of my children.

For the past 25 years of single parenthood, I have struggled with the lies of an enemy who condemns me for divorce. The accuser is always quick to point out my earthly "poverty" and inability to give my children the material things their father often won their affection with.

But on race day, when I could physically do NOTHING to ensure his success, or to take away the pain in his body hour after hour after hour, I knew, probably for the first time in my life what I could give.

I had a world of pray-ERS! I had access to the ear and heart of the Father, and many of His beloved who would make the need known. After I sent out a hasty "Thumbs Down" urgent prayer request, you started responding. You, in Africa, you in Israel, you in China, you in Mexico, you in India, you in Russia, and you in the good old US of A!

I know the competition was important to my son and the 2,421 athletes who participated. I know they were in it to finish and receive the coveted "IRONMAN" title and medal at the end of the course. I didn't take away a medal of any kind, but I walked away with an enlarged heart, a comforted spirit and a reassured soul.

When I am not "there," wherever "there" is, the Father's faithfulness to those who call upon His name goes into action. And when you're coming around the corner of a bad circumstance, when you don't have it in you to take another step - sometimes His love might just show up looking like a crazy undressed guy holding a sign saying,

"Don't make me drop this..."

*"Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good they are bad, they are weak, they are strong
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man."

Holding up a sign
(Fully clothed and smiling)
For all those who need just a little encouragement to make it home,


*House By the Side of the Road - by Sam Walter Foss