Don’t stop. Keep going, can’t give up now. It’s not finished. The words beat in time through my mind as I inhaled, exhaled in rhythms far too fast for a middle aged woman. I alternately crept on all fours through sludge, wriggled through dank murky tunnels and accelerated over tips of snowy mountains. I realized I was not certain as to my present destination. The going was painful, the force of obstacles slammed against me from every side. At the moment I thought I couldn’t go on, new air filled my lungs and my feet floated above pitfalls strewn across the road.
Once in a while, fellow runners would pass, panting heavily, noses protruding at least six inches and pointing ahead, as if sensing a given direction. Rainbow colors unveiled across the sky, then broadened into florescent oranges, pinks and greens. As they faded, a rabbit appeared beside me. In a swish, he passed and glanced back with an apologetic look.
“I’m late, I’m late,” he shouted.
I recognized him to be the hare from Alice In Wonderland. Indeed, he carried a large clock.
Blackness. Falling, falling, I’m falling ...
Instead of crashing into foggy depths below, I jolted out of the darkness and ran down an asphalt drive leading to a motel. This is the place. I remember now. The forgotten invitation was deep inside my backpack. I switched to a slow jog, dug it out and read the note again. I was invited to a banquet at the Holiday Inn. I quickened my pace and arrived at the door, revolved through, slid into the main entrance and collided with another runner. Flustered and somewhat shaken, he picked himself up and offered me a hand. His shiny yellow hat and long fire hose had rolled down the glassy floor.
“Sure am.” He noticed my wire-rimmed glasses and pencil stuck behind ear. “ Teacher, I presume.”
“Here on business?” I asked.
“Nope, invited to a banquet.”
“215, it says here on my invitation.”
“Me too. We’d better speed up, don’t want to lose our place,” I said. “Let’s try this hallway.”
We sprinted down the hall and noticed the doors had no numbers.
“We could peek inside the next one,” I said.
Before we could turn the knob, the door swung open to .. the Academy Awards! Hollywood stars, drinking champagne and waiting for the envelope to be opened, turned and stared at us. A name was announced and we closed the door on thunderous applause.
No banquet in the next room, either. Instead, the room was full of college football players.
“The Heisman Trophy is presented to Reggie Bush from Southern California ... ”
A red headed policeman ran past us, looked back and squealed to a halt.
“You looking for the banquet? It’s across the hall.”
A siren blared as he reached up and stuck a flashing globe on top of his head. We rushed across the hall, opened the door and peered in.
Pastors, teachers, fireman, policeman sat on one side of a long table, lifeguards, missionaries and people who volunteered, on the other. They were talking in soft voices and comparing invitations. I took a place among them. The table was devoid of tablecloth and place setting, candles and centerpiece. No name cards were placed in front of the guests. Silver trophies were absent from the side table.
A whirl of blue haze engulfed us and evaporated. The angel Gabriel stood at the head of the table.
“God’s children,” he said, “your Father knows you work tirelessly, seldom receiving recognition. He took you aside tonight to encourage your faith. The banquet is not today. It will be held at the end of the race. Your acts of willingness will be known. You will receive crowns, but your deep desire will cause you to throw them at the feet of Christ. Today your faith is bolstered, knowing God is pleased with your decisions to serve Him. Now, I must send you back into the race. Run to the end, despite the trials that come your way. Your Father loves you enough to make certain you have abundant joy. Go, remember your reward in Heaven.”
Falling, falling, falling ...
I sat upright in bed. It seemed so real, so vivid,so wonderful ... The sugary smell of Sweet William’s Peas drifted through the window and filled the morning room. Reality of life returned with renewed vigor and meaning.
1 Cor. 9:24-27
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