The Final Stretch of the Race

The pistol sounded and we were off.  I was happily running beside my 10 year old son as he was attempting his first 5K race.  Since his decision to run with me was made the night before, there had been no time to properly prepare him for the challenges of the race.  Instead, I encouraged him to stick closely by my side, to let me set the pace and to take breaks whenever he needed them.  After the first mile, however, my energetic and naturally athletic son became bored with the pace I had set.  He dismissed my caution to speed up and suddenly took off on his own, sprinting toward the finish line.

Knowing that he would never be able to keep that pace up for two more miles, I began to scan the groups of runners in front of me.  I was certain I would find him walking the course, desperately trying to catch his breath.  I never did.  Instead, I spotted a kid his size just beyond the finish line, lying flat in a patch of grass.  Apparently, my son triumphantly crossed the finish line with an amazing time but collapsed from exhaustion just after he ran past the time keepers.   His shoes were saturated with sweat. Blood dripped down his feet from open blisters on his toes.  Concerned by what I saw, I asked him how he felt.  I will never forget the grin that appeared and the boasting that followed.  Barely able to summon the energy needed to speak, he proudly uttered, “Mom, I never stopped running and I beat your best time on my very first race!”

As we drove home, Alex admitted that several times throughout the race he had seriously considered stopping.  It seemed that every time he was about to stop and take a break, he would tune into the crowds who were visibly and audibly cheering him on, reminding him to keep pressing on.  Apparently, the most powerful motivators were the cheers my son heard toward the end of the race.  These supplied the fuel he needed to successfully complete the race.

What a great lesson for us to consider as we walk alongside teens.  Teenagers are running the last leg of the race called “childhood”.  While the end of this journey marks the beginning of the next, the manner in which they cross the finish line powerfully affects the way they enter the next race set before them.  Like trainers and coaches, we are called by God to equip, correct, and guide our kids well in the race they are all called to run.  But like a great coach, the same tongue that chides should also cheer.  Amidst the instruction, reprimands, and guidance we give to kids each day, we must make sure that we are also offering plenty of encouragement-words and gestures that fuel these kids to push through the battles they face during the grueling and most demanding stretch of this race called adolescence.

Even for those kids who outwardly reject or even resist words or gestures of affirmation, express them with love anyway.    God can use them at just the right time to defeat the negative and even destructive thoughts they may be entertaining as they run the race before them.   In this final stretch, we will never know when our kids are feeling tempted to give up the race that God has for them.  If our words genuinely reflect the voice of God, we can cling to the fact that His words and His truths have the power to strengthen and renew our kids as they crawl, walk, skip or even sprint to the finish line of adolescence.

And as you, my friend, face the final stretch of parenting kids at home, know that you are receiving the applause of heaven as you faithfully choose to mirror the Father’s limitless love for your teenager.    And like Paul you too can say,

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (2 Timothy 4:24)

One Response

  1. Beautiful reminder that the young people in our lives need cheers along with the necessary chides. Thank you!

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