Gold.

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I was not born to be a runner. It may be my “athletic activity” of choice, but only because it’s all this clumsy, uncoordinated body of mine can manage. At times, even the simple exercise of quickly putting one leg in front of the other can be a little too much for my awkwardly-outward-pointed feet.

But even if I was “athletically gifted”, my chances of excelling at running are still very low. Because I was also born with this other problem:

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Run or sit?  Run or sit?  Sit.

And drink coffee. Ahhh.

I do, however, manage to put my laziness aside a couple times a week and get out for a short run. And a couple times a year, I give in to peer pressure and even sign up for a race. (Yikes!)

This year, our friend Sid convinced me to run a 5K in Philadelphia.  I knew this would be way out of my league, but, hey, why not?

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I was a little nervous as the race began, but my pace was good and I seemed to be passing people left and right.  My confidence level was soaring!

But less than a mile in, reality hit me. Hard. I had started out way too fast, it was a hot day, everything in my body felt like it weighed a million pounds, and I just wanted to stop.

And then I looked up and saw the race leaders, floating by me with smiles on their faces, already on their way back toward the finish.  Ugh.

In spite of being sure I was going to die if I continued, I pressed on and made it to the finish line, glancing over at a time of around 27 minutes as I passed the clock. Not my best time, but not bad!

After finding Sid, we went to get our “official” times at the booth. I typed in my bib number and “10:34” appeared on the screen. I was confused and wondered if they were only giving mile splits for some reason? But Sid’s screen showed his full time, so I looked a little closer:

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Yep, that’s me. First place overall, 1st out of 699 with a time of 10 minutes and 34 seconds!

Obviously this was a glitch, but I thought it was hilarious, so I turned to Sid to celebrate my victory!  The timing official, however, was not so amused and proceeded to bring me to another booth where they tried to convince me that I had cheated or somehow run the wrong race.

Thankfully, they finally let me go, promising me they would fix the problem. But for the next few hours, anyone who checked the race results saw this:

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I was a world record-holding celebrity!

It was my 15 minutes of fame.

Just like I was not born to be a runner, I was also not born a “good” person. I may have put on a “good” act for many years of my life, but the truth is – I’m human. And that means that the majority of the decisions I have made or will make are based on getting what I want or making myself feel good. Even my most selfless decisions will always have at least a tiny root of “What’s in it for me?”

And because of that, I struggle. My selfish nature causes me to struggle with God, with others, and even with my own self. With the right advice, training and equipment, I may be fairly successful for a short burst of time – but it’s always hot out and I will always hit that wall. Hard. And the weight of my sin will feel like a million pounds.

But, there’s this guy ahead of me, leading the pack, already on His way back.  In fact, He already crossed the finish line.

Jesus did something I could never do – He lived a perfect, sinless, and completely selfless life before God.  The Bible says He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

He then willingly went to the cross, taking every ounce of my selfishness upon His shoulders, so that something amazing could happen: So that I could walk up and type in my number and see His perfect, world record setting time – with my name on it.

Because, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

His gold medal gets put around my neck.  Not because I tried really hard. Not because my good deeds outweighed my bad ones. Not because I was better than “those other people”. Not because I succeeded in any way or because I ever will. But simply because I heard Him call my name and I walked up to the podium, bowed my head and accepted it.

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There are many days where I hear the voices of doubt and the feelings of defeat trying to tell me that this can’t be true – I must be cheating or somehow trying to run the wrong race!  And so many times I want to cry “Unfair!” – because how could it be?

But I’m reminded over and over again that grace is not something I could have ever earned and nor is it something I can ever earn more of.  The race has already been won and now, instead of focusing on my losses, my failures, or my flaws, it’s simply time to celebrate the victory I have been given in Jesus.

And this time there’s no glitch.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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