Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31b
“Grace,” I said, “in order for this to happen…”
The topic was on improving my eleven year olds’ performance on the cross-country team and I was teaching her about pacing herself during a race. In our home we don’t emphasize winning, but rather doing our best for God’s glory.
“Pick the fastest girl on the team,” I said, “and run just behind her for as long as you can. Back off when you get tired, but save enough in your tank for the final sprint to the finish line.”
I threw in a NASCAR reference to make sure she understood what I meant about finishing with just enough gas.
As the words were coming out of my mouth, I wondered silently if her coaches would agree with my counsel. There were only two races left in the season and I had just challenged Grace to keep pace with a teammate who ran, on average, about two minutes faster than she did. I thought my message was, that in so doing she would greatly improve her time, and not that she beat the best girl on the team.
Okay dad, but I’ll have to run with ‘soft feet’ because she’ll hear me and run faster,” she said.
My heart was racing.
Soft feet? Where did she come up with that one?
With my encouragement had I inadvertently set an unobtainable goal for my daughter? I found myself choosing my words very carefully from this point forward, not wanting to deflate a dream or inflate a fantasy. It was about that time I stammered out, “In order for this to happen it would take a…well I mean…beating *Carly would be a miraculous thing.”
Gracie altered her expression ever-so-slightly and I feared I had sown a seed of doubt. I began to sweat and sensed it was probably a good time to reestablish our foundation.
Okay Grace, you need to understand that God needs to be in this equation. Jesus needs to be in this before, during, and after the race. Grace, even if you run the worst race of your life, Jesus Christ still gets all the glory. This is important stuff Gracie. Do you understand?”
“Of course daddy,” she said.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
I felt a little relieved.
“Not a problem, the plan hasn’t changed, just the person you’re running behind,” I said. “Get behind *Anna and do the same thing. Are you prayed up?”
“Yes daddy,” she smiled and sighed.
“Don’t forget to call on Jesus during the race; He’ll help you,” I told her again for what she probably sensed was the millionth time. “And win or lose, He gets the glory!”
From the back of her head I heard a faint, “Yup!”
The meet began and I waited anxiously at the finish line. I saw Anna and to my amazement, Grace was about fifty feet behind her. They crossed the finish line one and two (7th and 8th overall), with Grace perhaps ten seconds behind her — Grace had just run her fastest race ever, shaving about a minute and a half off her fastest time and almost three minutes off her slowest time.
Giving her a big hug I said, “Gracie, I know I’ve said this over and over, but remember to give God all the glory in this!”
“I will daddy,” and she ran off to get a hug from her mother.
Snow in October?
It was the last meet of the season, a huge middle school invitational and the weather could not have been much worse—a mixture of heavy wet snow and twenty mile-an-hour winds. By the time Grace was lining up for her event, she was soaked through and through. She was not alone. In all there were about two hundred girls, standing in a couple of inches of snow and mud, all shivering, and many crying. Gracie stood there on the verge of tears as well.
“Grace,” I leaned over and whispered in her ear so as not to embarrass her, “you don’t have to run if you don’t want to. Really, it will be all right if you don’t.”
Trembling she said, “I want to try.”
Now I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to say what I said, but I was glad that I did.
The start of the race was still fifteen minutes away and my flesh wanted to scream at the officials, “Start the race already!” but the Lord reminded me of the importance of being a good witness.
I didn’t need to remind her to pray. I knew she was or she had or she would. Nevertheless I tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to Heaven. She nodded in agreement.
The starter’s pistol!
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Michelle and I watched for a few seconds as the girls trotted off, but then we turned and ran to be there for her at the finish line.
Through the wind and the snow we saw the first group of girls approach. The racers would dash past the finish line once and run about another half mile before actually coming around to cross it. At this stage we were close enough to see Grace’s wet face, but not quite close enough to distinguish her tears.
The Final Surge
Just when you think things can’t get much worse…
With about a quarter-mile to go Grace tripped and fell in the mud. In the process, her blue knit cap fell off. Leaving it behind, she got up quickly and kept running.
The leaders began to cross. The agony on their faces was concentrated and it affected all the spectators. Then through the snow Grace appeared.
“Go Grace go,” we shouted as she entered the chute. “Watch out behind you!”
Grace crossed the line holding her position.
33rd out of 183
Grace did not win the race, but she accomplished her goal — Grace finished first among her teammates, a full twenty-one seconds in front of the fastest girl on the team. We were ecstatic!
“Grace, come on,” we said as we thanked God and applauded her effort, “let’s get back to the bus to get warm and have some hot cocoa.”
“No,” she demanded.
I was taken aback. What am I missing?
Grace, not yet composed herself, wasn’t ready to celebrate her victory. “I’ve got to find Carly and Anna. They were crying so much during the race.”
While I had kept reminding my daughter of the importance of giving God all the glory, she reminded me that there are many ways by which that can be accomplished. Gracie, I believe inspired by the Holy Spirit, chose an excellent way.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
This was not Gracie’s day, I want to be clear about that. This was God’s day. Jesus showed up and got His glory. And in so doing He blessed a whole bunch of people.
Praise be to God.
Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20b
*Not the girls real names