The photo will become a classic.
In the foreground, a high school runner crossing the finish line with a smile on his face and his pointer finger raised in victory. Only one problem: in the background, another athlete, obviously pressing hard toward the finish line, is slightly ahead of the runner claiming victory.
What happened? The high school star, who expected to take the state title in the 400 meter run, let up too soon, claimed his victory too early, before actually finishing the race. And the underdog, the guy not expected to win, never gave up, tried his best and finished first.
I shared with my teenage son that this can apply to so much of life. Imagine being incredibly gifted, the best in your sport among all other athletes in the state. You may have already penciled your name in the record books as the best 400-meter runner in 2014. On the day of the big race, you feel good, you feel fast, you feel ready. As you round the final turn, you’re in the lead and you fight back a smile as you imagine collecting your medal. As you approach the finish line, you decide to bask in the glory for a moment. It feels so good to be the best. Let me celebrate these last 20 yards. Wait, what? What happened? What?!? He passed me? Me – the fastest guy in the state?
Now imagine yourself as the other runner. Clearly gifted; obviously fast. But not expected to win. Not against – him. But as the race approaches the finish line, you find yourself in a position to close the gap between you and No. 1. Wait, what? Less than 20 yards from the finish line, the leader appears to let up. You give every last ounce of energy to cross the finish line, pouring out everything you’ve built up over the last several years of training. And while you were the best in your school, maybe even your district, you never thought you could beat the best in the state. THE best. But you stuck with it. You continued training. You put yourself in the best position possible to win. And now, YOU are the state champ. You.
The parallels to our lives are so obvious I won’t state them all. I’ll only say, never give up. Even if you are doing well and are satisfied with your work, your results, your successes – never fail to give your best. Finish strong. If you’re not expected to win, if no one else believes you can make it, including you, still finish, accomplish your dreams – don’t stop.
I’ll cross the finish line of this blog with this reminder: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
What a tough lesson for the favorite. What a great lesson for the underdog.