Sol Andrews stood up straight with shoulders back and glared into the antique mirror spotted with age, just like him. I look old, he thought. But he felt young… at least he had until yesterday. Sol’s shoulders slumped as he remembered feeling as if someone had punched him in the gut after hearing Dr. Singer say, “You’ve got cancer.”
This is all Minnie Bess’ fault, he thought. She’d nagged and pushed him to get a physical, and when Dr. Singer brought up a colonoscopy, he’d almost refused. His Daddy had lived to be ninety and never went to see a doctor because he’d claimed, “Doctors will make you sick. That’s how they make a living.” And now he was sick. At least that’s what he’d been told.
Sol ignored the new, bright orange t-shirt placed on the bed by his wife. He turned around and stomped to the chest of drawers. Today was the thirty-fifth annual 5k Weldon Wellness Run, and by golly, he was going to be in the race, cancer or no cancer. He’d let the young guys on his team from the filling station crew stand out like a tangerine. He still had his shirt from the first race, and he was going to wear it like a badge of honor.
He sighed, If only I could go back in time and tell the young man of forty, “The best is yet to come.” He’d had a lot of good years and running had made him feel healthy and strong, but now he had… cancer.
Sol dug through the clothes and found the faded trophy, and pulled it over his head. When he walked into the kitchen, he found Minnie Bess drinking coffee while reading her Bible. She looked up and shook her head. “That shirt looks like it ought to be in the rag bag.”
“It’s old and worn out, just like me.”
She stood up and gave him a hug, “Nonsense. You’re the same good looking man I married fifty-five years ago, and still running faster than a scalded dog.”
“My fast days are over.”
“I’ll have no part of a pity party. I’ve fixed you a half-a bagel with peanut butter. You don’t want to run out of energy.”
He looked at the kitchen clock and sighed. “I’ll eat and then we need to go.”
“Let me take a picture and post it on Facebook. The grandkids will get a kick out of seeing their old grandpa running in a race.”
“I wish they lived closer.”
“Me too, but we’ll see them soon.”
Sol finished his bagel and coffee in record time. “Let’s go.”
By the time they reached the town square, the crowd was already large. It was easy for Sol to find his team. The bright orange shirts the filling station crew wore stood out. The young guys seemed to get a kick out of Sol’s original t-shirt.
Billy West shook his head. “That’s an old shirt, Mr. Sol.”
Sol clapped him on the shoulder, “Just like me, but the seams are still holding together.”
The Chamber of Commerce Director, Tom Shaw, spoke into a bullhorn. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to line up.”
Everyone shuffled and tried to angle closer to the start line.
Tom continued. “I’d like to read a verse of scripture before we start. The rowdy crowd quieted, and Tom spoke into the bullhorn. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1
Sol considered the familiar scripture and the weight he carried today. He’d been shocked to hear that he was sick, and then angry. The words from Hebrews reminded him that he could let Jesus carry this burden.
Within seconds, Tom’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Prepare to start – On your mark… Get set… Go!”
Sol’s adrenaline kicked in, and he started running. He passed a young mother pushing a toddler in a stroller. He waved as he caught sight of Minnie Bess in the crowd of bystanders. Both children and adults pushed through Main Street. Sol normally looked down when he ran, but today, he wanted look up and savor every minute. The trees that lined the street were beautiful, and the shade from the leaves blocked out the heat from the sun.
After the first few blocks, Sol’s shins started to protest, but he looked up and prayed, Forgive me for my anger. He rounded the corner and felt a new surge of energy. In the distance, he could make out Noble Biggs, his old buddy from grade school, sitting in his wheelchair, passing out cups of water. Sol grabbed a cup, “Thank you buddy.”
“Show those young’uns what you’re made of,” Noble said.
Salty sweat stung his eyes while he gulped the water. “I feel like I’m made out of Swiss cheese.”
“Drink another cup then.” Sol grabbed a cup and threw it over his head and started jogging again. As he passed the half-way point, his left leg started to cramp but he limped on and kept his head up. He felt an urge to sing. In his mind he heard, To God be the glory great things he hath done…
The cramp in his leg caused him to pause and try to work out the kink. He gritted his teeth and limped along. Other racers passed him. I should just give up, he thought as he saw the backs of so many racers. He didn’t know if he could finish the race. He bent over, rubbing his shins, he prayed, Lord give me strength and I’ll give you the glory. He felt a small hand touch his. When he opened his eyes, he saw eight year old Becca Reynolds next to him. “You okay Mr. Sol?”
“I’m about whooped, but I’m gonna do my best cross the finish line.”
“I’m tired too. Let’s sit down and quit.”
He looked into the dark eyes of the little girl, took her hand and started walking, pulling her with him.
“Let’s not give up. Remember what Mr. Tom read from the Bible when we started, Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
“But I’m tired.”
“Me too, but I’ve run this race before, and when we cross the finish line, we’re going to give God the glory.
As they walked, Sol continued to hear the familiar hymn in his head. “Let’s sing Becca, and he belted out in his strong baritone voice, “To God be the glory, great things he hath done…”
Becky started singing with him and in the distance he could see the finish line. Crowds from the sideline started clapping and cheering them on. Sol held onto Becca’s hand. The cramps in his legs disappeared and they picked up their pace singing all the while. Others on the sidelines started singing with them, Great things he hath taught us, great things he hath done, And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son.
Sol caught sight of Minnie Bess in the crowd, and next to her, were his two sons, their wives and his four grandchildren. He felt a surge of joy and had to wipe the tears from his eyes as all the people were singing, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the people rejoice, Oh come to the Father through Jesus the Son, And give him the glory, great things He hath done.
Sol crossed the finish line and his family overtook him with hugs. He didn’t know what the future held, but he knew he’d been blessed beyond anything he deserved, and he would run his race with endurance, because he could look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of his faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.