On the third Mondayin April, the city of Boston commemorates two Revolutionary War battles withthe observance of Patriots’ Day. Tomany locals, this holiday is also known as “Marathon Monday,” as the storiedBoston Marathon draws hundreds of thousands to cheer on the swell of runnerstraversing its challenging 26.2 mile course. This year’s women’s field isperhaps the deepest in years. American favorite Kara Goucher is competing with EthiopianTey baErkesso, last year’s champion, and four-time Boston Marathon winnerand Olympian Catherine Ndereba. Each has a vision of winning the race.
“Catherine Nderebaknew the gold medal was hers.”(1) So opens an article in Kenya’s nationalnewspaper on the Beijing Olympics’ women’s marathon. Having missed it by only twelve seconds in 2004, Ndereba sether sights on winning Kenya’s first gold medal for a woman. I tuned into therace that day to watch her run with characteristic ease at the back of the largelead pack as she covered each mile with seemingly effortless stride. Yet as the race wore on and I saw hergesture to her teammates to pick up the pace, I wondered when she might do thesame. But she seemed relaxed andunworried, her vision for gold pulling her closer toward the stadium where shewould run the final lap and a half around the track before a wildlyenthusiastic crowd.
The theme of visionruns throughout the Scriptures. A vision of a just and merciful God and hissovereign hand upon the future spurred on the prophets Ezekiel, Daniel, andIsaiah. Such vision not onlyafforded them hope for the years to come but also much-needed perspective andencouragement in their immediate difficult situations. When the apostle John was in exile andhis fellow Christians were suffering under intense persecution, it was a visionof God that sustained and humbled him. Notably, God’s first words to him are,“I am the Alpha and Omega … who is, and who was, and who is to come, theAlmighty.” (2) The One who is the beginning and the end is Almighty, which literallymeans “the One who has his hand on everything.” Although he couldn’t comprehend all that he experienced, Johnreceived a glimpse of God’s faithful and steadfast provision in the present andin the future and he was awed.
Running on a trail oneevening, I thought of how critical it is to be mindful of the immediate and thedistant. That is, if you look toofar ahead of the trail, you soon find yourself tripping on what is right atyour feet, but if you look only at your feet, you may find the trail abruptlyending into a ditch or fallen tree. You need a wider perspective—a sense of both the immediate anddistant—in order to maneuver such terrain. In fact, that evening when I spied the end of the trail justahead, before I realized it, a massive root sent my limbs splaying against thehard earth. Wiping my dirty palmand bloodied knee, I mused to myself that vision is of little help if you are notpaying attention!
Perhaps CatherineNdereba was having similar thoughts after the Beijing marathon. The Kenyannewspaper article continues, “The four times Boston Marathon winner knew thatshe was ahead of the pack but suffered a rude shock when she saw RomanianConstantina Tomescu headed for the National Olympic Stadium to steal theOlympic marathon gold medal with Ndereba having to contend with the silver,Kenya’s first medal at these Games.” (2) Unknown to Ndereba until the finalturn into the stadium—but evident to scores of television viewers andspectators on the course—Tomescu had broken away at a water station severalmiles earlier and continued to increase her lead.
Ndereba commentedafter, “I didn’t see her breaking away … and, after all, I normally run my ownrace and I don’t look at other athletes…. I thought I was in the lead and onlywhen we got to the stadium I saw her and was a bit surprised but it was toolate to do anything.”
I thought of herloss: here was a world champion and Olympic medalist with attainable gold, butsomehow her eyes—and not her legs or lungs—had failed her. It was too late. Or so it seemed. Instead, Ndereba expressed elation forher silver medal and said, “My strategy was to start strong and finish strongbecause God says He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Though not looking far ahead, like thefaithful prophets of old she had a wider perspective and praise to the One whohas his hand on everything in the present and the future. She looked disappointment and disbeliefin the face and remarked, “No man can do what the Lord has done for me,” andbroke into a gospel song, mahali nimefikanimeona mkono wako (“Where I have reached, I have seen your hand”).
Danielle DuRant is director of research and writing at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Elias Makori, “Kenya: Runners Bag Two Silver Medals,” The Nation (Nairobi), 17 August 2008, http://allafrica.com/stories/200808170110.html
(2) Rev. 1:8; see also 21:6.
(3) This quote and subsequent others from The Nation article.