Wheelchairs lined up at the starting point as the athlete-owners waited their turn. Shouts and cheers from anticipating parents and friends could be overheard as young athletes took their marks. Six schools. 165 middle – high school aged kids ready for the day they’d been waiting for. It was finally here.
100 meter dash. 50 meter dash. At last, the 30 meter dash was announced. I waited for my little athlete to take his position at the start line. The whistle blew. Runners poised, ready. The gun went off. Competitors shot off to a sprinting start! That is, all except Noah. He slowly plodded down his little lane towards his waiting para at the finish line. I had to laugh. Everything in his time.
The other contenders finally made it across the finish line. Some skipping, others waiving all limbs in the excitement of the race. One stopped just before the finish, transfixed by the crowd of parents watching and cheering. Her assistant eventually helped her cross the end goal. Noah looked up toward the bleachers and saw Neil and me waving at him, “Keep going, Noah! Don’t stop!”
Then I heard his little voice as he slowed just a little. “Home?”
“Not yet, Noah! Finish your race! C’mon, keep going!” Finally, he crossed the finish line. He was the last one. But he finished.
Standing broad jump. Curiosity almost got the best of me when Noah stepped to the edge of the sand pit. I counted quietly to myself as Noah’s assistant counted out loud. “One…two…three…jump, Noah!” With great effort and muscle power, he leaped from the edge of the sandpit. After his jump was measured, I heard the record keeper, “Seven inches!” Celebration with clapping and shouts of encouragement boomed from the grassy section where Noah’s teammates lined up, waiting their turn. I couldn’t keep from smiling as I clapped with his excited team members.
Once the long jump was done, I watched the teams march back to their designated places on the field. The wheelchair races were just finishing. The last ones were “athletes with assistants.” One of the races earlier was an electric wheelchair slalom. I observed each individual’s unique ability as each one maneuvered his chair back and forth, in and out of the pylons without knocking them over.
Now, watching the assistants push their athletes’ wheelchairs across the finish line, a thought popped into my head.
What a picture of the Christian life! In Philippians, Paul talks about running this life like a race. I always pictured that race to be run with speed and great spiritual agility. Get to the finish! I love Special Olympics because everyone cheers everyone on. The competition isn’t “cut throat.” It doesn’t matter that you finish first, second, or third…or last. It only matters that you finish doing the best you have been called and equipped to do. And aren’t we supposed to help others finish the race they’ve been called to run? Isn’t that how the body of Christ is supposed to work?
I often think how my husband, Neil, enables me to minister to others by supporting, encouraging, and helping me however he can. The church enables, strengthens, and equips our family to be able to reach out to others. Without the body of Christ ministering to our family, Neil and I could not love others really well. We’re stuck in our disabilities. Sometimes I feel like our family is in the wheelchair. We can’t reach the finish line without someone coming along side and giving us the push we need. I guess we’re all like that.
How has someone come alongside you and helped you keep going with your disabilities? Do you know your disabilities? And in turn, where have you come alongside someone else with their “disability” and helped them to the finish line?
I told a friend on Facebook, about Noah coming in last in the 30 meter dash and about him jumping 7 inches in the broad jump.
“I couldn’t be more proud!”