We Got This!
Kelly Drive is one of the things that made me fall in love with this beautiful city, and I love to go to work via this magnificent drive. I have done this so many times that I often go into automatic mode when I drive through the last stop signal just after the art museum. One morning, while in this automatic mode, I found myself remembering a time when I watched my daughter, Elonnai, run a cross country race when she was in high school. The race took place at Rose Tree Park just outside of Media. There was nothing unique about this time—it was very much like the other times when I had the chance to watch her race there.
“Deep breaths, Elonnai! TAKE. DEEP. BREATHS,” I remembered myself calling out.
“That’s right! You’re looking strong. REALLY STRONG. Focus on your steps . . . only your steps!
Wow, you’re doing great!!!
You’re looking strong. You’re feeling confident!
YOU GOT THIS!!!
NOW SPRINT DOWN THE HILL!”
Whenever I was able to watch Elonnai run a race there at Rose Tree Park, I would position myself at the last big hill of the course. Then I’d run as fast as I could to cheer her on to the finish line with the others.
Why that last stretch? Why that last, lonely, crushing third of the course?
Because that’s the hardest part of the race.
That’s the part of the course that torments every runner: lactic acid courses through your legs, making them feel like two heavy lead weights. There is often a sharp pain like a knife stabbing you in your side, threatening to bring you to your knees.
In this last heartbreaking third of the course, all you can think is that you need to slow down, catch your breath. No, better yet, just stop and take a break! It is here that you begin to think you can’t possibly take another step—or that the pace is too fast, the hills are too steep, the expectations too great.
Few runners make it to this section of the course, which makes it the easiest place to be heard. This was my favorite place to watch Elonnai race.
I often wondered if Elonnai ever heard me when I perched myself at the middle of that last gut-wrenching hill: calling out her name, telling her to breathe, to focus, that she was looking strong and that she could do this. I wondered, that is, until one day when I got the chance to watch her run in college in New York.
This time I couldn’t get to the back stretch.
After the race, my wife and I came to congratulate her on a race run well. After accepting our congratulations, she asked me,
“Dad, where were you?! I was listening for your voice. I couldn’t hear you. I really needed to hear you!”
I’m not sure why this memory came to my mind that morning as I made my way along Kelly Drive, but it reminded me of the bible passage where the Apostle Paul reminds the persecuted Corinthian Church that our heavenly Father, who in tenderness sees our inward pressure and our anguish and understands it with deep feeling, empathy, and heartfelt compassion. And He seeks, through his Holy Spirit, to soothe, encourage, exhort and coach us as he travels right alongside us in whatever we are facing.
Suddenly, I got a picture of my heavenly Father, reassuringly calling out my name, saying,
“Breathe, Peter, breathe. We got this! Focus! Focus on me! I got you! We’re looking strong. Don’t give up now! Keep going, take my hand. We got this!”
In that moment I realized that I need to hear God’s warm and heartening voice every day. No—not just every day, but every moment of every day. Every moment I need to feel his comfort, his tenderness, his encouragement: just like I need oxygen.
Then I wondered . . .
What keeps me from hearing him when he calls out to me?
What prevents me from embracing his encouragement when I need it the most?
What prevents you?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3 & 4)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Hickok, a native of Seattle, moved to Philly in 1998 and loves it here. He enjoys hiking, basketball, gardening, and playing bridge. He is a huge fan of the 76ers, the Phillies and the Eagles (in that order). He has a great family, lives in a great city, and goes to a fantastic church. If you were to ask him he would say that indeed he is a blessed man.