It’s one thing to take up your cross and follow Jesus…
It’s something entirely different to literally follow that cross in a 10k race!

The place… Charleston, SC
The date… March 31, 2012
The occasion: joining 40,000 others in the 35th annual Cooper River Bridge Run

After returning from Tanzania, I’ve been running long distances to stay in shape and this run was a great way to keep myself goal-oriented.
2 miles, 5 miles, 6.2 miles…even an 11-miler (that’s my house to the Wateree river bridge and back in case you were wondering…) I have loved hitting the open road one step at a time and even moreso I enjoyed putting myself to the test over THE bridge leading into the lovely Charleston.

The time came and, after work, I made my way down I-26 (along with thousands of others…)

Staying with a friend of mine we prepared the mind-taxing logistics of leaving Daniel Island, picking up friends on the Isle of Palms, starting the race in Mount Pleasant and concluding the race in downtown Charleston.

As 5:30am arrived we were up and our adventure began. Gathering a few more friends along the way we approached the threshold of our training’s tantalizing test and…waited.
Doesn’t this happen in our faith as well? We’re called to go and serve and sometimes that means “Stop procrastinating and GO!” But other times, we’re called to wait…to pause…gather our thoughts…prepare ourselves…refresh our minds, bodies and souls so we can then serve more effectively and more compassionately. So, against all our Western hurry-it-up tendencies…we wait…
So we were standing in our section, stretching and discussing our weaving strategies to work our way through thousands of people and, after a lovely hour delay, (they kindly offered us extra practice on waiting…) the gun sounded and away we went!
I’ve had few experiences in my life where I was truly surged with adrenaline but swamped in the middle of thousands eagerly anticipating a personal best time, adrenaline took over.
I ran the first two miles MUCH faster than I planned and was feeling the burn…then I saw it…the bridge to be conquered! I climbed and climbed striving for the bridge’s pinnacle and, upon reaching the crest depraved of energy, I saw something that completely caught me off guard…
While the suspense is in full effect here, I’ll preface this encounter with another interesting note about the Bridge Run. It’s fairly commonplace for runners to dress up and compete festively. I’ve seen Batman, Superman, the Flintstones, a chicken, Elvis and two years ago I ran about half the race alongside a Banana suit before we decided to SPLIT up…
But this time, it was different and it’s these counter-cultural and unique moments that leave us with questions and the drive to seek out their answers.
So here I was, halfway over the bridge, looking for something to encourage me to keep on keepin’in on when the very inspiration for my life passed by my side.
A young guy (probably college-age) was running and harnessed to his back was a large 6-foot wooden cross. On it had some message about God’s love for us…honestly I don’t remember and that’s fine by me because the significant part for me is the fact that this guy was RUNNING with this cross for SIX MILES strapped to his body. Wow!
Clearly this guy had ran long distance before because he had a nice smooth pace as he brushed by me effortlessly. So I continued on my way deep in thought with questions about what had just crossed my path when I was on the bridge. Again, the fatigue starting kicking in and it was at this moment when I saw the cross again in the distance, surrounded by thousands of bobbing heads but standing up over them all as if it were guiding them in the right direction. Now, when I run I prefer fixating on landmarks and working my way towards them and this cross became just that for me. So here I was pushing back the pain and following this cross amid the chaos to reach my goal…the finish line!
Of course, during my run, the thought of turning this sequence of events into a blog produced itself and I began thinking my favorite questions: Why? What is its meaning? Why share this with others?
But isn’t this 10k cross just like Christ’s place in our lives… guiding us in the right direction, offering hope and encouragement not to give up and being the one who stands out apart from the crowd without judgment and without force… I guess the only major difference would be that the 2×4 cross on that guy’s back never offered me friendship (I didn’t want the splinters anyways…) and we have the privilege of having a close relationship with God!
Another thing I noticed about this cross on the bridge was during those moments that I was focused on that cross and following it, I wasn’t focused on myself…my pain… or my selfish concerns of how cool I looked in my legit running attire. Now this doesn’t mean the pain went away, or I became stylishly awesome,  or I was able to cut my time in half (but still finish hours after the Kenyans!)…  A book I just finished recently phrased my thoughts on this matter perfectly…

“The resurrection of Jesus [and consequently the decision to follow Jesus] didn’t change the circumstances of those first disciples; it changed their perspective on their circumstances.” –Final Words (Adam Hamilton)

When I focused on that cross, the pain didn’t subside, but I had a goal in sight and it gave me hope that if I continued pushing through, I would indeed reach the finish line and complete the task placed before me. In life, God doesn’t promise to take away our pain or give us money or lavish us with comfort… what God promises us is peace and God’s presence. And oddly enough those are the very things God calls us to offer our “neighbors” as well… peace/justice and our presence/time/compassion.  
After 48.50 minutes, I crossed the finish line exhausted, overheated but satisfied with a strong run. I’m glad to have come across that guy carrying  the cross and the reminders it provided me about the need of denying myself and following Christ.
“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” -Luke 9:23
So we’ve arrived at my blog’s cross-roads…the part between what you’ve read and what you’re going to do with/about it. So, what’ll it be? Is there a cross ahead of you in life that guides your decisions and gives you hope or do you just “manage” on your own?

May you find the hope and encouragement that is found on the cross.  May your life be filled with God’s peace and presence and may other peoples’ lives be filled with peace and presence from you! And, each day, may the cross of Christ be your guide towards THE finish line… into a place where words are no longer necessary, glory abounds and our souls merge with the full presence of God. How beautiful that day…