Clarence wobbled a bit as his weak limbs hit the dusty road. He was tired. He was hungry. He wasn’t even sure why he was running anymore. They were about fifty kilometers out on the trail but he felt like his lungs were going to burst open, spilling his innards on the dusty road.
He winced a little at the thought.
He should stop to eat something. Some of the other runners did. Every few hours they stopped to eat some of the food Papi – for that was what they called the organizer of the race – kept on the track. But, he couldn’t do that. He was too busy.
He had to win this race.
The Papi also helped the runners a lot. Sometimes, he’d just jump in and take some of the weary ones on his shoulder while he ran. Or offer them glucose. Or help them read the map. Or bellow advice from a chopper hovering above them constantly. But Clarence had graciously rejected his offer several times.
All his friends were in the race. He had a lot to prove. He did his exercises well and was a natural at this. He didn’t need the food. But, he felt really doozy. His initial energy and fervor that was present when he began the race was gone. His breaths came in wispy, shallow puffs now. But he kept going.
He would make it.
He didn’t need food.
Or anyone’s help.
* * * *
The bag was weighing her down. Tina had wondered at a time what it would feel like to carry a thousand ton rock on ones back. Now, she knew. She couldn’t remember where the strange thought had come from at that time. Maybe something she had read somewhere about placing a millstone around someone’s neck and dropping them in the ocean.
She felt so strangled. All her energy and concentration focused fully on carrying the weight hanging on her stooping back. Her steps were slow and labored. But this was hers. She would carry it. So she hopped on with the bag flopping heavily on her back as she did so, her breath shallow and labored.
Several times Papi had hovered in a chopper above her like he usually did, bellowing on a megaphone for her to drop the load. But all the time she would shake her head and ignore him. There was no way she was dropping it.
She had left home with it. It contained all her personal stuff. Things she loved and was comfortable with. Things she wasn’t ready to let go of for any reason.
For any one.
Besides, she was sure she was doing great in the race…for someone with all that load. Never mind most of the energy from her food always went to carrying the bag rather than running the race. But she wasn’t complaining.
She would be fine.
She stopped a bit to catch her breath and watch the other runners and tried not to envy some of them. They were so agile and fast. If only she could be that way. Some who breezed past however, were so pathetic she wanted to laugh. But then she remembered the weight chocking her and changed her mind about expressing her scorn. Their steps were so feeble and Papi had to carry them most of the time or offer them some kind of help.
They were so helpless.
At least she was better than them. Now, if only she could find a way to carry this load without it chocking or hindering her steps too much, she would be fine.
She would be just fine.
* * * *
Ladi had always loved beautiful things. She remembered as a child, she had had such a keen eye for art that her parents had thought she would end up as an artist. She would usually point excitedly at a daisy or a rose and hop excitedly screeching, “Look! So, so pretty!” Her friends thought she was weird, in a kind of way that was somehow acceptable for only artists.
But she hadn’t grown to be an artist. She was a photographer.
Now, as she ran on the trail, she couldn’t help but notice how the surrounding hills towered and tilted towards each other like they were having a private conversation. She sighed.
It was really beautiful.
Then there were the luscious berries that hung alluringly and beckoned silently by the side of the road. Her mouth watered, never mind the food Papi provided for them. They were not like these ones. These ones were different. She could just take…
She shook her head vigorously and blinked. “Focus, Ladi. Focus!” she chided herself and picked up her slowing steps.
She must have run for about a kilometer when she saw it. It wasn’t different from the others she had been seeing along the way but somehow this one caught her fancy. She halted in her tracks for a bit and watched.
There was a party at some distance to the west. The people were dancing and laughing like they had no care in the world. They looked like they were really having fun. She found herself smiling longingly.
She wanted to go.
All she had to do was stay awhile. Maybe take a few of those berries she had seen on the trees along the way. They had them there, in platters. Ladi squinted and tried to make out the other things lying on the table. She couldn’t really see them from where she was but they seemed really delicious. She would not stay long, she told herself. She would be able to get back on track later, after all she was a fast runner. Very lithe.
She should go.
What harm could there be?
* * * *
“Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 _ NIV
No, my question mark is not out of place. I’m not sure that story ever really ends. It’s our story. All of us.
What is the lesson in it, you ask? Well, it should be there somewhere. But here’s a tip: They are all Christians. On a race.