I’ve always loved to fly. Something about the sound of an airplane being able to go where my finite body can not on its own, simply amazes me. I remember the sound of an airplane coming back to our small station in the middle of Africa. I remember the pilots calling out in French: attention! before starting the propeller for take-off. I remember being in those Cessnas so many times, eagerly spying out Mount Nyankunde, which meant we were home. My sister always had her head buried in her lap, or eyes closed, so I took in all the scenery for her, my stomach never feeling the queasy hers did. Before each flight, the mechanics cleared the plane for flying.
This weekend is a big deal for Matthew. His body has been cleared to run, and we are pumped up to take this 24 hour flight. We, meaning, he is doing all the running, and I will be on the sidelines cheering him on big time. When we think back to a year ago, we didn’t know his esophagus was closing up and the strange loss of his voice meant more trouble was brewing in the near future. It was a really hot weekend, and whether it was truly canceled because of the heat or not, we look at it as a blessing from God. We don’t know what would have happened out there, but I think God preserved his life.
About 95 percent of folks think what he is doing is pretty crazy. They ask, why? Reading through the first year of the race, here, I am revisited by goosebumps. Is it safe? This question makes Matthew laugh. I don’t believe Matthew is stupid, but he also isn’t fearful. Too often we let fear keep us from pushing harder. If you asked him why he runs, his answer always is: I feel closer to the Almighty God when I run. Running strips him bare. He spends a lot of time in prayer while he runs. On the practical side of safety, his doctors have given him an excellent bill of health. However, on the side of safety where most of us dwell… not wanting to be in pain, shying away from inconvenient, and letting fear of difficulty keep us from getting stronger… he is living on the edge. Because it isn’t about safety, this life on earth. It’s about trusting a really big God who isn’t always safe. As C.S. Lewis penned: “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
There are three men we pray for daily, throughout the day. One, Jerry, is a prisoner in Africa, and we are praying for him to be found, released and the darkness to fall. One, Saed, is in a known jail, but illegally being tortured and willingly kept from his home country of the United States. Another is a good friend of ours and he lives in an incredibly dark, hellish environment in one of the most unsafe regions of the world. All three are running an eternal race with eternal significance. We don’t know the end of their stories on earth yet. We know what they are experiencing, both willingly and without choice, is bringing even greater glory to God. When Matthew runs, he enters into the suffering of these men who are running too. Maybe not with their feet, but certainly with their lives. As Elsie keeps asking me about Jerry, she says, Mama? Is he still running? Yes, he is still running. And with all of our breath, so we should be too.
We’ve been cleared to run.