What Will Stop Harriete? What Will Stop You?

Late last month, Harriete Thompson earned the inestimable right to plaster a 26.2 sticker on the back of her car. She finished a marathon. Finishing a marathon is no small feat for anyone. I’ve never done it. I do plan to give it a go in October, but I haven’t done it yet. I know I can, but I know it won’t be a simple thing.

Harriete Thompson has now done it 16 times, all of them in the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. How do you finish a marathon? Harriete might (or might not) give this two-step process to finishing.

  1. Cross the starting line. That means sign up and begin the race.
  2. Don’t stop until you cross the finish line.

Easy, right? You have to start and then not stop until you’re done. Harriete has followed that prescription 16 times. She never let anything stop her. Her time, 7:24:36, won’t impress most people, but there are some details about this lady.

  • Harriete is 92 years old, the oldest woman ever to complete a marathon. She could have let her advanced age stop her, but she didn’t.
  • Her husband of 67 years died last years. She could have let the grief and disruption put an end to her racing, but she didn’t.
  • Harriete is a two-time cancer survivor, having battled skin and jaw cancers. She could have let that legacy stop her, but she didn’t.
  • She didn’t even start this activity until she was in her mid-70s, an age when most people are looking for the best place to park their recliners. She could have let that stop her before she started, but she didn’t.

Someday Harriete Thompson will stop running/walking marathons. Someday she’ll pass from this life, but until those days come, if past experience is any indication, she’ll keep pushing forward.

You and I will someday be unable to do the things that we want to do, eventually succumbing to death. That’s the nature of life. Harriete Thompson seems to see life as something to be lived as fully as possible for as long as the body allows.

Why should any of the rest of us do any less?

Walking Away from the Right Things (Hebrews 2:1)

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)

I’ve quit a lot of things in my life. In high school, I quit the wrestling team. Piano lessons bit the dust somewhere along the line. I quit my first real job, working for the Boy Scouts. At present, I’ve quit working as a volunteer for the Boy Scouts. I’ve quit drinking Diet Coke about a thousand times. Many people have much more experience quitting things than do I, but I am no amateur in that pursuit.

There’s nothing wrong with quitting things. After all, if we never quit anything, our lives would be utterly jammed. The problem is when we quit the important things. I’ve known of people who walked away from marriage, got out of the habit of parenting, drifted away from prayer, and quit other vital things.

The author of Hebrews spent the entire first chapter of his letter establishing the importance of Jesus Christ, establishing Jesus as something that we cannot afford to simply have fade from our lives. Justin Bieber can be forgotten, but not Christ. American Idol can fade from view, but not Jesus.

Christ should be like the air we breathe–there’s a song to that effect, isn’t there? When we withdraw from him, we should almost immediately notice the loss. Our lungs should ache, needing the nourishment that comes with each breath. That’s how it ought to be, but the presence of this verse in Hebrews suggests that since the very dawn of the Christian age, the drift away danger has been a very real and present one.

That we’re reading (and writing) these words, suggests that we’re attending to the things we’ve heard and endeavoring not to drift away. May that always be the case.