Yesterday was the Ironman Triathlon in Chattanooga. Over 3,000 people entered the race to swim 2.4 miles in the Tennessee River, bike 116 miles along the base of Lookout Mountain, and then run 26.2 miles in downtown Chattanooga. Each stage of the race has time limits and shutdowns. If you do not complete a stage before the shutdown time, you are not allowed to continue.
Tom and I drove home along part of the bike race course yesterday after work. The shutdown time for the bike race was 6 p.m. and the riders we saw at 5:30 were still four miles from the end of the bike course. Even if they made it before the shutdown, they still had a 26.2 mile marathon to complete before midnight.
You will never see me participating in a triathlon. I liked Doug Merideth’s post on Facebook the other day: “I don’t run. And if you ever see me running you should run too because something is probably chasing me.” But I really admired the people who were still riding their bikes and still focused on their goal. The results page on the website only listed the first 370 finishers, which I think is too bad. I think everyone should have their name listed no matter where they finished, because they finished. Can you imagine being the last person to finish before midnight? Or the first person to finish after midnight, knowing that your result would not count? Finishers should have the same pride in their accomplishment whether they come in first or 3,001st.
Tom and I went to church last night. This may seem an odd transition, but I have been working really hard trying to find a church that has an evening service. I spend hours on it every week. I call church after church, send e-mails, and scour web pages. So we finally found a Presbyterian church just up the road from us that has a Sunday evening service (I gave up on the United Methodists last week). Last night we came home from work, changed clothes, then drove to Fort Oglethorpe Presbyterian to attend worship at 6 p.m. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot when we arrived so we were encouraged. We walked in to the Fellowship Hall (the first room from the door we picked) and people were eating a meal. There was a table spread out with a guest book, pictures, flowers, and mementos. You guessed it – it was a funeral dinner. We found the darkened sanctuary and tried to talk to a couple of people but no one went to that church. Finally Tom suggested we look in the kitchen (funeral dinner = church people in the kitchen). One member of the church was working and we talked to her for a few minutes. Yes, they did have worship services at 6 p.m. on Sunday. But they didn’t yesterday because of the funeral. Oh, and they wouldn’t next week because on the first Sunday of the month they have a fellowship dinner after worship on Sunday morning. But she was pretty sure they would have a service in two weeks and she hoped that we would come back and visit. *Sigh* This search for a way to worship is starting to feel like an Ironman Triathlon!
But I press on. I will not give up. I will continue the search until I find a place to worship.
We run various kinds of triathlons every day of our lives. There are times when we grow discouraged. There are times when we are too tired to continue. There are times when we just keep moving ahead because it is the only direction our weary minds and bodies can think of to go. We press on because the only alternative is giving up and we won’t do that. The Apostle Paul knew the feeling. In Philippians 3:13 and 14 he wrote, “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.“
We press on. We will not come in first. We will not get our names in the paper or be covered with acclaim from the world. But as long as we don’t give up we can win the prize of heaven.