I am a runner.
Well, I like to think of myself as a runner.
Truth is, I started running about five years ago shortly after my husband and I separated. Running saved me. You see, I could go out as an emotional mess. As my feet pounded the pavement, my mind began to clear. I could pour out my heart to God as I left a trail of tears along my running path. With each step, I would feel my Savior’s presence, embracing me with his love, whispering words of life. I would return to my home and my kids with a new outlook on life, with the reassurance that there was a beautiful future planned for me.
For me, running has always been about feeling strong enough to overcome. It’s about the feeling of conquering a trail and looking back to see how far I’ve come. It’s about competing with myself to go longer, to go faster than I did the last time. It’s about becoming a better and stronger version of myself.
But, I’ve never been a fast runner. Running has never been about winning a race; it is always about setting a goal and accomplishing it. When I ran my half marathon, I had a goal time in mind. I actually obliterated that goal, but I was still a slow 11:30 minutes/mile.
This summer, however, I have been running with a male friend of mine. Rather than running farther, we have found ourselves running faster. Our times dropped from 11:00 minute miles down to 10:00 minute miles. It’s been exhilarating to run faster and faster.
A few weeks ago, I decided to run the Bison Stampede 5k at my college homecoming. Runners are a rare breed. You see, I paid money to get up at 4:00 am, drive an hour and a half across the state, to torture my body by running 3.1 miles ‘neath the windswept skies of Bison Hill. What part of that makes sense?
The starting gun fired, and the runners were off. Again, I found myself with a male running partner. As we rounded the corner at the one mile mark, they called out a time of 9:20. We were both shocked! I don’t think I’ve ever run a mile that fast! We continued to the two mile mark, keeping our pace fairly steady. As the finish line came into view, I saw another lady about my age. I determined that I would cross the finish line in front of her, hoping that maybe…just maybe…I might sneak into one of the top spots for my age group. As I crossed the finish line, I looked at my phone app to see a time around 29:00 minutes. I had never completed a 5k in less than 30 minutes! I was ecstatic!
I grabbed my things and ran in for a quick shower while the 10k participants finished their race. I came out for the awards ceremony. I took a quick peak at the results that were posted…and they had me listed with a time of 38:09!
In shock and disbelief, I told some of my friends what my “official” time was. They, too, were shocked, knowing that they had placed and I was only seconds behind them. As I looked for the lady that I had passed at the finish, I noticed that she had placed…and yet I was listed 10 minutes behind her, well out of medal contention.
After a little investigation, I discovered that they had me listed with the wrong bib number. My actual time was 28:43 which placed me in third place in my age category. However, medals had already been awarded. Not only did I not receive a medal, it was given to someone else—someone that I had clearly beaten.
It was an injustice.
Yes, there’s a bit of a sting that I had the race of my life, that I rightfully earned a place among the top three that morning. But, I know the truth. I know that I competed and earned the medal. I know that it was an honest mistake. Sure, I’d like to have a third place medal to add to my collection of “finisher” medals. I was told that the error would be corrected and I would receive my medal. It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s not the end of the world.
The injustice of not getting my medal stings. But, it is a minor injustice compared to other injustices I’ve endured in my life. Anyone who has walked through divorce (especially with adultery) has been dealt injustices. When it comes to divorce, it seems that one person always gets the bad end of the deal with finances…with the kids…with the hurt and pain…with the burdens.
It’s something I’ve come to accept, to deal with. But, it’s not easy. It stings. Sometimes, there’s not a sting. It’s a flat out slap in the face, a deep, aching burn that doesn’t end. Sometimes it’s a brief injustice that endures for a short time; other times it becomes a life-long injustice to carry. Sometimes justice is finally served; other times, we must simply wait for God to deliver justice at his time and in his way.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:1-5, 10-14
Despite the many injustices I experience on a regular basis, I was thinking about the one who suffered the greatest injustices: the Son of God himself. Just think about it: he was living in paradise when his dad asked him to give it all up and come to earth. The King of kings was born not to a royal family; instead, he was born in a manger, in the lowliest of surroundings. He wasn’t celebrated on earth; instead, he was rejected by many. He wasn’t blessed with earthly wealth; instead he worked as a carpenter. He was falsely accused. He was mocked and rejected. He was convicted and sentenced to death for crimes he did not commit. His friends abandoned him, denied they ever knew him. He died a cruel, humiliating death.
Because of me…
I am the one who lies. I am the one who selfishly insists on my own ways. I am the one whose pride interferes with my perspective. I am the one who greedily clings to my material possessions instead of giving to the needs around me. I am the one who neglects the most important parts of scripture, failing to make his way my way. I am the one who fails miserably each and every day.
And yet, he died because I sinned.
The one who was perfect took my sins upon his own body. He suffered and bled and died. And by his stripes, I am healed.
And, now he is with me, my Immanuel, my God with me.
He suffered injustice for the greater good, for my good. He knew that one day the Father’s plan would come full circle, that he would see good come from the injustices he suffered. He clung to hope that God would ultimately prevail, that the beauty would ultimately outweigh the pain. He chose to endure it all so that I could experience the joy of his Father…a joy and peace and relationship that he knew so well.
I don’t know what injustice you are suffering today, but I am quite certain that it doesn’t compare to the injustice Jesus Christ willingly suffered for me…and for you. Perhaps if we can change our perspective, if we can look at the injustice that he suffered, we will put our own injustices in a new light. We will endure the pain for the hope of a beautiful future he is preparing for us. We will focus on what he asks of us instead of that one who received our prize. Perhaps we will recognize how much he has given us, those things that we don’t deserve.
In this Christmas season, I wish for the world to recognize the injustice our Savior suffered…an injustice he chose because of his love for you and me.
Thank you, precious Savior, for coming to this earth because of your love for me. The sting of injustices that I experience often derails me from your perspective. I ask that you would help me to always stop and look at things through your eyes, to remember how much you gave up for me. Help me this Christmas to focus all of thoughts on you, to allow the truth of your birth to resurrect the Christmas spirit within my heart. May you be glorified.