The Glory of a Goal

Rarely has an outstanding group of youth come along that is constituted of so many exceptional academic and athletic students as the one with which I was blessed to grow up. Most were over achievers. Our football team was such. One of our most challenging nights teamed us against a powerhouse from our neighboring town of Magnolia, a much larger school and more experienced team. They were good and they knew it. 

It was our first game at night under the lights in the rain. All that was to their advantage.

On one occasion they were on our one yard line where it seemed they spent much of the night, though they seldom crossed it. Their running back came around my end. Their big tackle, who later played for LSU, took me out of the play and into the end zone. One of our defensive backs hit the runner and the wet ball popped out right into my arms a few yards in the end zone. I grabbed it and started to down it, but quickly concluded that if I downed it someone might fall on me and that didn’t seem like a good option. Someone yelled “run” and that sounded like a better plan. I got through the tangled mass of players before most knew what had happened. I realized I was in the open with green grass ahead. Looking over my left shoulder I saw my shadow, comfort. I glanced over my right shoulder and there was one shadow too many, discomfort.

I knew that if I was going to outrun my nemesis I would have to deceive him, so I cut to the left, and he cut to the left. I cut to the right and he cut to the right. For the last 85 of my run that went on. When at last I crossed the goal line there was no one within 75 yards of me. They were all looking to see what I was running from. I looked down and there they were, two shadows, both mine created by the cross lights of the stadium. I had been running from my shadow. If I had simply run to the goal and not from my shadow I would have gotten there faster and the home stands would not have been laughing.

That imagery has followed me through life as motivation to keep my eyes on the goal, and not run from distracting shadows.

A modern English translation of Philippians 3: 14 – 20 gives a biblical perspective of this principle. 

“…with my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God’s heavenward call in Christ Jesus. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”

There is consolation in knowing, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)