Wednesday Wisdom 🙂
Inspiration this week comes from 1John 4:12
“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each another, God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
The morning of August 6th dawned early as the Haymaker Cross Country team gathered for our first conditioning practice. As the sleepy high school students wandered in, it was not hard to notice that the number of boys outnumbered the girls. In Nebraska (for all classes of schools other than A – the largest schools), varsity teams run 6 athletes and score 4 with the optional 5th runner serving as the tie-breaker runner and both the 5th and 6th runners able to out-place those from other teams in order to raise team scores. The goal – if you are running as a team – is to get the lowest score possible with your top 4 runners.
To the outsider, Cross Country is pretty much an individual sport. To the runner, it is very clearly a team sport. In addition to scoring as a team, there’s nothing more lonely than standing at the starting line without any teammates, and possibly nothing harder than motivating yourself to race through the discomfort of the 4th and 5th kilometer without the knowledge that your teammates are with you.
The individuals make up the team — but the team brings the individuals together to accomplish something greater than they can do alone.
In those early weeks of conditioning, I prayed each day for God to bring our three girls a fourth runner. By conventional standards, three runners did not give them a team. Our girls could compete as “individuals”, but could not compete as a team. I knew how important it was to them to go to state together. It is possible for individuals to qualify to run at state, but it is also highly improbable for one school to get three athletes qualified that way as only the top 15 runners in each district earn the right to compete at state.
The days went by and the same three girls showed up for practice each day. As I watched them love each other – support each other – and work so very hard together, I had an epiphany. There may have only been three of them, but they were a team. They loved, they leaned, and they shared through each moment. They did all of the things that good teams do. Honestly, they weren’t just teammates – they were sisters of the heart. It was not only remarkable, but also beautiful.
At that point, I stopped praying for a fourth runner. Instead, I started thanking God for bringing the three of them together and asked for Jesus to bring them courage. I prayed for Him to fill a different gap – not a physical one, but an emotional one. They didn’t need a fourth runner, they needed to believe that they were a team so that Jesus could carry them.
Almost two month later, the three girls huddled up near the starting line at the District Championships – preparing for the defining race of their season. I reminded them that God brought them together as a team. That He loved them and that I did too. They just needed to pack their Holy Sass and GET IT DONE!
They finished 2nd, 12th and 15th. Karyn – my youngest – was our third runner racing right on the heals of her sister Megan. 100 yards before the finish line, Karyn tripped and fell. I don’t know how many people saw her fall, but I can tell you that those of us that did had a moment of panic. But, Jesus filled the gap. She came up racing and managed to claim the 15th spot despite the fall.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons this season. So did the girls. But, I think what struck me the most was how much God shown through them. 1John 4:12 reminds us that none of us have ever seen God, but when we love one another He is expressed through us.
We know Him when we love, and others also get to know Him as we love.
Throughout the season, the girls often gathered in prayer and opened their hearts to abide in Jesus. You couldn’t ever see Him, but you could see Him in them. As they honored Him, He blessed them. As a coach – and a mom – I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. I prayed for a 4th runner, and Jesus delivered.
Friday, the girls will compete together at the Nebraska Class C State Cross Country Championships. I don’t know exactly what the race will bring, but I do know that Jesus will once again be with them. As they hold His hand, He will hold their hearts. Together, they’ll run.
As they do, they create the light that illuminates God’s expression of love in their hearts.