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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Willingness (02/21/05)

TITLE: 1706
By Lisa McMillion


I had a choice to make and I needed to make it quickly, before the walkers blew by me with their heel-to-toe beat and the street sweepers shooed me off the course altogether. There I stood inside one of many portable toilets along the way, the light of noon diffusing through blue plastic, mixing with the red of belabored respiration to turn me a strange shade of purple. Model athlete, embodiment of Will and his brother Determination, number 1706. I rapidly flipped through my internal index of excus-- eh-hem, options -- I could borrow someone's cell phone and call it a day; I had already run twelve miles in two hours and, according to the course map, Mile 13 was entirely uphill. A half-marathon wasn't bad for a first timer. I heard the footfalls of those who had decided they were too vested in their promised heaven to turn back, their feet slapping the pavement outside my private purgatory. Various shirts I'd followed for the last five miles became pestering voices nudging me onward: "Once You Cross the Finish Line, You Will Never Be the Same," "Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever," and the menacing one I kept trying to outpace-- "Don't Get Too Close, I've Got The RUNS." I had no idea why I had thought I could finish or how I would, but I just knew that I must.

That my jogtrot could never compete with the predatory stride of the Kenyans had entered my mind like a Postage Paid Business Reply Card I need only acknowledge by mailing. It is true, I had accepted what I believed to be sunscreen on a tongue depressor offered at mile 11 from a helper at the course sidelines. It turned out, however, to be a maximum strength topical analgesic that I eagerly rubbed onto my already burning face. It became my fastest mile. I was a comet of menthol blazing through the city streets to land on the nearest water station attendant. Afterward, I must've quit and started again at every mile marker all the way to 26. Each time I wanted to give up, I'd hear someone who had never met me, who just knew that I was in a race few enter and all struggle to finish: "You go, 1706! Go Marathoner!" God had said that I could do all things, and this, by my estimation, qualified as one big crazy thing.

Somewhere along the way, I began to accept my circumstances as Saint Paul's allegory of will in Philippians 3:13, what some refer to as their Christian walk, and I, my Christian distance-run. Forgetting those things behind me, I pressed onward toward the mark for the prize, which to me was finishing what I'd started despite adversity and the lure of willingly halting. I have heard it said that Christians blame everything on Satan, but I believe that each one of us is so important a threat that if we are brave enough to enter the race, he is ready to take us out at any hint of our willingness to quit. He is the vampire requiring our invitation to come fully across the threshold. He is the shark to our blood-scented surrenders.

On my last quarter mile, I heard a voice yelling behind me, seemingly from another dimension. It was an Ironman veteran I had met on the shuttle bus to the starting line, apparent Master of His Own Will. I could never compete with him, I had thought. Now his voice was behind me, urging me onward to completion ahead of him.

When one becomes a Christian, he must seriously count the cost. The times he will trip, fall, and embarrass his former self. The times he will hide in unsavory places to escape the impossible things God might show to him that he will do. He must realize that he is in a strenuous test of will, but that he is trained and loved by the Master and that victory is secure and all the more sweetened by his continuation. Though every sinew of his body will ache, though he will retain the encouragement of others like a sponge and still come up wanting at times, though he will doubt himself endlessly and cry out in despair, God will never leave him, but lead him on. And once he crosses the finish line, he will, indeed, never be the same.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jeremy McNabb03/02/05
You've given us some really terrific mental images here. A few metaphors may have been a little over-the-top, but the effect as a whole was one of experienced story telling. Always find your own voice and go with it! Great job!
darlene hight03/03/05
I enjoyed this. See you in the winners circle 1706
donna robinson03/04/05
You had me agreeing with this character, laughing with him and then you made me get serious about finishing the race. Great read
Debbie OConnor03/06/05
Very well done. I liked the image of the hiding in the portable toilet debating whether or not to finish. Very realistic. And I liked the end with the Ironman encouraging the runner to finish ahead of him. Great image!