When I was in 9th grade, my great passion was basketball. My basketball coach was the varsity cross country coach and informed me I would be on the cross country team and expected me at practice. I had run track but had no idea what cross country even was. I accepted the “invitation” more out of hoping it would lead to more playing time in basketball season.
Our cross-country practice was only twice a week. On Tuesdays, we ran twice around a mile loop at a park and on Thursdays, we ran up, down, back up, then down a mountain for a 3+ mile run. Our first meet was on Saturday in early September in Arkansas. I had just turned 14 years old. My parents had even less of an idea of what cross country was and were not generally athletically inclined. My mom woke up early on Saturday and cooked me pancakes and bacon so I’d be well-fueled for the race. I washed it all down with a big glass of milk and went off to the meet.
Cross country is basically not running on a track. We ran through fields, parks, and golf courses, no matter the weather. At my first meet, I was actually doing fairly well and in sixth place (according to my journal). At meets, you really only see spectators at the start and finish.
As I approached the finish, I started my final kick or sprint. Right where everyone was gathered cheering us on to the finish, I discovered that pancakes, syrup, milk, running, humidity, and 90+ degree temperatures are an awful combination. I fell to my knees and lost all of my breakfast. I have a vivid memory of being frozen in that position, staring at my own vomit, and deciding if I didn’t move, no one would notice me. Or if they did notice me, if I stayed perfectly still, they’d look at something else. I felt sure there was some unspoken rule that all would abide by so long as I didn’t make eye contact with anyone.
I’m not sure how long I stayed there. I’m pretty sure people were yelling at me to get up. It felt like hours but was probably only a minute or two. Suddenly, there were hands on my arms, lifting me up, and a kind voice saying, “Trish, you’re okay, go ahead and finish, you’re almost there.” Dr. Floyd, our school’s superintendent and parent to another runner, had come from the crowd and helped me stand. I honestly thought vomiting and falling down had somehow disqualified me. In the little coaching and training I had, nothing was ever mentioned about falling. Nothing was mentioned about what to eat or not eat before a race. All my practices or prior track meets were in the afternoon or evening so breakfast never mattered. Basically, I was told to stay on the course and run as fast as I could.
Moms, what are you teaching your children about the race of life? Do they know what to do after they fall down? Do they know they can get back up and continue to the finish line? It may seem obvious and just common sense that, of course, falling doesn’t disqualify you, but have you taught them that? Do they know? Do they know of times when you fell down yourself? Do they know that certain choices will assuredly cause them to fall and leave them staring at their own vomit in bewilderment and embarrassment?
Do your children know of Christ and His power and promise of lifting each of us up? Have you shared how He has lifted you up? Do they know He himself was lifted upon the cross so He could then lift us?
“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men, even so, should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil— And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father.” (3 Nephi 27:14-16)
Jesus’ repetitious use of “lift” emphasizes His perspective on His lifting power and the culmination of His purpose in the plan of salvation. We are only able to be lifted because we fell, whereas Jesus was only lifted upon the cross because we are fallen and need to be lifted and drawn to Him. He endured to the end on the cross to draw us to Him and that we may be lifted to and through Him and then be guiltless.
Russell M. Nelson testified of this, “Your responsibility to endure is uniquely yours. But you are never alone. I testify that the lifting power of the Lord can be yours if you will ‘come unto Christ’ and ‘be perfected in him.’ You will ‘deny yourselves of all ungodliness.’ And you will ‘love God with all your might, mind and strength’”(Endure & Be Lifted Up, GC April 1997).
While I had a moment of feeling intensely alone at my first race, I was not. Someone who knew more about finishing a race than I did, stepped out from the crowd, not even deterred by the puddle of vomit caused by my inexperience, to lift me up. There was no lecture, no blame, just hands and arms encircling me to help me stand and point the way. While my parents didn’t know much about running, they have always pointed me to the lifting power of Christ. No matter the reason I’ve fallen, either through my own choices, another’s choices, or just life, Jesus has never been deterred to come and lift me. He’s extended His lifting power, encircled me with His arms, and filled me with hope and determination to finish my race. Through Him, I’ve learned that enduring to the end doesn’t mean I won’t fall, but that because of Him, I am able to rise and continue. His infinite and supreme lifting power is available to the newest or most experienced runners of life no matter where we are on our course.