THE RACE (a poem by D.H. Groberg)
"Even if godly people fall down seven times, they always get back up" (Proverbs 24:16). "Quit! Give up! You're beaten!" They shout at me and plead, "There's just too much against you now. This time you can't succeed!" And as I start to hang my head in front of failure's face, my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race. And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene. For just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being. A children's race - young boys, young men - how I remember well. Excitement, sure! But also fear; it wasn't hard to tell. They all lined up so full of hope; each thought to win the race. Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place. And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son. And each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one. The whistle blew and off they went! Young hearts and hope afire. To win and be the hero there was each young boy's desire. And one boy in particular whose dad was in the crowd, was running near the lead and thought, "My dad will be so proud!" But as they speeded down the field across a shallow dip, the little boy who thought to win lost his step and slipped. Trying hard to catch himself his hands flew out to brace, and mid the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face. So down he fell, and within him hope; he couldn't win it now. Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow. But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face. Which to the boy so clearly said: "Get up and win the race!" He quickly rose, no damage done; behind a bit, that's all and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall. So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win, his mind went faster than his legs; he slipped and fell again! He wished then he had quit before with only one disgrace. "I'm hopeless as a runner now; I shouldn't try to race." But in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father's face. That steady look which said again: "Get up and win the race!" So up he jumped to try again, ten yards behind the last. "If I'm to gain those yards," he thought, "I've got to move real fast!" Exerting everything he had he gained eight or ten, but trying so hard to catch the lead he slipped and fell again! Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye. "There's no sense running anymore; three strikes: I'm out! Why try?" The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away; so far behind, so error prone; a loser all the way. "I've lost, so what's the use," he thought. "I'll live with my disgrace." But then he thought about his dad who soon he'd have to face. "Get up," an echo sounded low, "Get up and take your place. You were not meant for failure here. Get up and win the race. With borrowed will, get up," it said, "you haven't lost at all. For winning is no more than this: To rise each time you fall." So up he rose to run once more, and with a new commit he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn't quit. So far behind the others now, the most he'd ever been, still he gave it all he had and ran so as to win. Three times he'd fallen, stumbling; three times he rose again; to far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end. They cheered the winning runner as he crossed the line first place. Head high, and proud and happy; no falling, no disgrace. But when the fallen youngster crossed the line in last place, the crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race. And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud. You would have thought he'd won the race to listen to that crowd. And to his dad he sadly said, "I didn't do so well." "To me, you won," his father said. "You rose each time you fell." And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face, the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race. For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all. And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall. "Quit! Give up! You're beaten!" They still shout in my face. But another voice within me says: "GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!" Poem by D.H. Groberg and thanks to Bill Conrad for sending it to me.