Viewpoint: Keep ultimate finish line in mind

If you would have asked me to run the Bearathon last year, I would have wondered why you were talking to me. Prior to the Bearathon, I had never run more than five miles at once. But what seemed like an impossible dream became reality as I was inspired to run the Bearathon this year because of an insight my professor, Dr. Jeter Basden, gave in the Introduction to Ministry class.

In the class, Dr. Basden stated that the calling to ministry is like a marathon – one must be readily equipped for a life-time of ministry and be prepared for what’s to come. This piece of wisdom gave me a reason to run my first half-marathon and decided to run the Bearathon as a symbolic act toward a lifetime pursuit of God and ministry.

Throughout this season of training, I gained deeper understandings of overcoming trials, persevering amid hardships and running the race marked ahead of me (not others). No wonder the “race” and “running” analogy is used so much in the Bible.

Paul declared, in Philippians 3:12-15, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

For numerous individuals I met on Saturday, the Bearathon was a testimony of their newly accomplished goals. For some runners, new personal records were set while for one couple, an engagement occurred. The Bearathon was a testimony of new beginnings, and the life of Daniel Jones, a senior marketing/ management double major from North Richland Hills, truly testifies to this.

After returning from the Bearathon, I found out that Daniel passed away prior to reaching the finish line. The news shocked me as I had seen the ambulance enter and leave Fifth Street. Questions of life’s purpose and thoughts on the fragility of life flooded my mind upon hearing about Daniel.

Why not me? I wondered. Immediately, my heart and prayers went out to each of Daniel’s family members and friends. I did not personally know Daniel, but I have friends who do know him. And they each have remembered his character, love, and strong faith in Jesus Christ.

His life testimony is beautiful – particularly in light of the Bearathon. May we press on like Daniel did, not only in the Bearathon but also in life. May we be challenged by his testimony of overcoming adversities in life. His life challenges us all to re-examine the way we are living and the testimony that we are proclaiming to those around us.

Daniel’s story and departure from us here marks a beginning to the ultimate finish line – where Jesus and many others surely cheered him on and welcomed him home.

Although Daniel may not have been able to reach the finish line at Bearathon, we cheer and rejoice, for he won the greatest prize of us all – “the prize for which God has called me [and each of us as we follow God] heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Jaja Chen is a sophomore social work major from Norman, Okla. She is a guest columnist for the Lariat.