Running Your Race: Checkpoints

The Ultimate Race

Every spring the ultimate race takes place in Alaska.  The one thousand mile Iditarod, give or take a few, is run by mushers and their sled dogs (known as a team).  The race runs through the scenic, but extremely rugged and snowy terrain.  The teams face blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. The extreme racers have been running the race since 1973, and what used to take mushers several weeks has been taking some sportsmen only ten days.

Dog photo courtesy of Elodie Marnot

This race includes about twenty-five checkpoints along the way. At these checkpoints the teams must sign in, they refresh supplies, some get rest, and some push on. Prior to the race each team flies their supplies ahead of them to the checkpoints along the way.  Great care is taken to prepare the way and anticipate needs of the team.  Food, lamps, batteries, needed items for the dogs, and even sleds or sled parts are some of the preparations.

Checkpoints

When I began thinking about this race something about the checkpoints really hit me.  Yes, winning is on the mind of every team, but the truth is that along the way they are happy to get to those checkpoints.

In our extreme spiritual race, God has prepared the way for us.  He has taken great care to send what we need ahead of us.  When we reach the next checkpoint of faith, there is necessary provision, rest, encouragement, and direction to the next checkpoint.  In these places God reassures us that we are headed in the right direction, and we are encouraged.

As we run our race we can be taken through some rough spiritual terrain with many storms that can leave our faith in whiteout conditions.  Since we walk by faith and not by sight then we push on.  As the Iditarod racers do, we can get lonely and discouraged by the unexpected along the way.

Extreme Terrain

Spiritual terrain is full of valleys and mountaintop experiences.  Just when you celebrate being on the mountaintop, it is time to go down the other side into the valley, or to the next mountain climb.  The weather and terrain is unpredictable.  Checkpoints along the way can help us refocus on the finish and recall what God has brought us through.  We can be refreshed, filled, and return to the race in anticipation of the next checkpoint.

In the current stretch of my race, I reached a checkpoint the other day.  I reached a place where I was reassured that I was going in the right direction.  A celebratory “Hallelujah” escaped my lips.  Within twenty-four hours I ran into a storm that has me walking by faith, and not running.  I told God that I was really tired and discouraged.  I just really don’t even know which direction will lead me to the next checkpoint.

Exhausted

What I do know is that God has led me this far.  That He knows the route I need to take.  He has left me provision before, and that He commands me to rest.  In our race we have to remember who our  Musher is.  We have to remember to let Him lead.

Each Iditarod team has mandatory rests, and one twenty-four hour layover that must be taken along the way. When we get to the checkpoint it is important to fill up on the supply God has given, and take the rest He commands.  It is mandatory for our survival, and for the ability to run the race.

So in your current race, where are you?  Are you beginning, have your reached several checkpoints, or is the finish so close you could almost taste it? Maybe you are in need of rest and refocus like me. Focus that gives you wings of flight over extreme spiritual terrain.

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

It will not be long and we will be hearing, “Mush!”  Until then take the rest and fill up on hope.  Let your Musher tend to you, Beloved.  <3 Melinda