Years ago my son Derek competed in a much-anticipated track meet. For three long years of his young life, he had prepared for and hoped to win the two-mile race, and now watched with the crowd gathered near the finish line, it seemed the race would last forever. Finally, Derek crossed the finish line first, and the crowd burst into cheers. He was immediately surrounded by coaches, teammates, and friends, all patting him on the back and offering congratulations. Derek seemed relieved and thrilled to have finally accomplished his goal.
I noticed, however, that in the tangle of the congratulatory crowd, he was frantically scanning the field as though he wanted to be somewhere else. Soon Derek bolted across the field. I watched, with tears in my eyes, as he ran with arms outstretched into the open arms of his father—the place he wanted to be. I recorded that moment in my mind—a moment when I saw just how much our son loves and needs his dad.
Derek’s preparation for this event had not been easy. There were times of discouragement, disappointment, and sometimes complete despair. But Derek had the constant support of his greatest fan—his father! In rain, wind, sleet, or snow my husband was at every race offering Derek encouragement.
At those races my husband stood apart from the other spectators at what I considered an odd place. He wasn’t at the finish line or even along the final stretch, but at a distant corner on the far side of the field. Once I asked him why he stood there. I will never forget his answer. He said, “I stand at the place my son needs me the most. He does not need my encouragement at the beginning of the race—he’s excited, positive, and ready to win. He does not need those cheers at the end, when the finish line is clearly in sight. He needs to know I’m there at the most challenging moment—when his legs burn and he feels like he cannot go on. He needs to hear at that far corner a voice telling him to keep moving because he has worked hard and deserves to do his very best. There will be cheers at the beginning and loving support and the end, but I will be at the corner where I know he feels like giving up.”
As I watched Derek leave his team at the finish line and run a great distance into his father’s arms, I realized that spiritual whispers of encouragement from my Father in Heaven have not come at moments in my life when I felt most sure of myself. Instead, those reminders of His love have come when I thought I could go no farther, when I felt as if my spiritual legs would collapse in exhaustion. I have felt His love and I have known then, as I know now, that I am His child. As I remember my husband’s arms encircling our son, I imagine what it will be like to cross the finish line of this life and run into the waiting arms of our Father in Heaven. I am grateful for the support of a loving Father in Heaven and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that has helped ease every difficult turn in my life.
Illustration by Gregg Thorkelson