It seemed the second lap would be would be smoother than the first. The crowd seemed to be cheering for us as we ran along the first straight away. The young voices were happy and cooperative. They seemed to enjoy being together and running with us. We were finding a rhythm. As we ran through the first turn, though, things began to go wrong. The second lap would end with a series of hurdles. We had to construct these hurdles while continuing to run and we had to help our followers to jump them. Constructing hurdles is difficult. It is especially hard when you are blindfolded, wearing ankle weights, and running as fast as you can while staying together with a group. Though we were allowed to design the hurdles ourselves, the officials demanded that they be able to inspect the hurdles after they had been jumped. This made us very nervous because we had never constructed or jumped hurdles quite like these and we didn’t know exactly what the officials were looking for. This had never happened before in the history of the race. We weren’t sure what it meant. We appealed to the King for help. As always, the King answered our request and we and our young followers got past the hurdles. We never heard from the officials about what they thought of our hurdles, so we assumed they were acceptable. I wept because I needed some encouragement so much at this point in the race. It would have been great relief to hear that our hurdles were good, or that the officials were proud of the way our students cleared them, but we really run for the King and he never failed to cheer us on.
The jeering began to get louder as we approached the hurdles. It was so frustrating to hear the complaints but not be able to answer them. It is difficult to communicate with people who are in the stands when you are running a race. The scoffers remain anonymous and the only thing a runner can do is his best. We just kept running, but more and more often as I ran, I cried. I tried to hide my tears from my group and from my followers. It was hard. The young followers were especially wonderful during this time. Most of them trained hard for the hurdles and they jumped over them with ease. This brought us much joy. The king kept whispering sweet words. I was amazed, and I learned that even the whisper of the King can drown out the jeers of the crowd. I fixed my attention on the whispers of the King and I kept running.
We were panting as we began our third lap. Now as we ran, various people stepped onto the track and punched members of our group in the stomach. Sometimes this happened to us one at a time. Sometimes we would all be attacked at once. It was hard to recover from these blows. If the blows were individual, the other members of the group surrounded that runner and helped him keep going. It was harder when we all received a blow at the same time. We learned to run through the pain and to run with tears in our eyes. The crowd pelted us with rotten tomatoes and the occasional rock. Some of our young followers yelled encouraging words, gave us cool water and handed us rags with which to dry our tears. They made the race worthwhile. The King kept whispering.
As we ran into the third lap, an announcement came over the loud-speaker in the stadium. The crowd was invited to comment on the running ability of our group of six. They were asked to indicate with thumbs up or thumbs down whether they thought our race should continue, we should be removed from the track, or broken up as a team. The hardest running we did was during those long days of waiting to hear the judgment of the crowd. The results were finally announced. Though it was agreed that we runners were not as well prepared for the race as we might have been, though we should have trained harder and perhaps even been replaced by better runners, the idea of our group was considered a good one. We were allowed to continue and we were each allowed to take off one ankle weight. We came through this lap closer as a group than we had been before. Now we not only ran together, we had suffered together, and that made us stronger. The King knows best.
This lap was really hard. In this lap I received one personal punch right after the other. I was only walking at this point. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other. The finish line was getting closer. If I could round the last curve, I would be able to see it. The blindfold began to slip sometime in the third lap and after that I could see where I was going. I could see and really know my young followers now and I was terribly sad about the end of the race because then I would no longer guide these same wonderful young runners. There were times in those last few miles when my followers almost carried me. I ran for the King. In my grief it was sometimes difficult to hear the whispers of the king, but I never doubted that he was there. I knew that if I finished, it would only be in his power. I prayed with each halting step and I knew it was his grace and strength that kept me going. It was his race to finish, now. I could depend on him.
I awoke in a sweat and with tears running down my face. God is good all the time.