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Why, you might ask, do I have my friend Jenny’s Iron Man Triathalon photo-finish hung over my desk? She’s young…doesn’t that make me feel old? Oh yeah. She’s physically fit and strong…doesn’t that remind me painfully of my bum knee and my overweight? Uh huh. She’s wearing a triumphal smile…doesn’t that rub my nose in all my failures? You bet. She’s been focused, disciplined, and well-trained. Yes, that makes me feel a bit ashamed of my shotgun, sometimes lazy, and amateur approach to reaching my own goals. She’s victorious – and boy, did she ever earn that victory! – and my big win has yet to happen.
Not what you’d call an uplifting image, right?
Wrong! When I look at that photo I see a gal the photographer couldn’t catch. Her youth has made my ‘old age’ a mentorship that has made a difference. Her teachable spirit has soaked in everything I’ve wanted to give, in a world where most young people don’t have time to listen. She’s physically strong, but that’s nothing compared to the emotional and spiritual strength I’ve watched her grow into. Her sufferings have made my better-body longings seem trivial. She’s joyous in triumph, but I’ve seen her joyous in defeat. That smile of victory speaks to me of victories no race course but the eternal one could test.
She’s relished the opportunity for focused discipline, and recognized in it a luxury and a privilege. I’ve had the privilege of more leisure and thanked God for the different race He’s letting me run. She’s got spunk and talent, an eye for beauty and poetic depth, resilience and faith and passion and honesty and goodness. Together, we have a friendship that doesn’t need the other to look exactly like the self – a friendship that leads us together to the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Jenny’s beauty breaks my heart, but not with jealousy. The picture of her crossing the triathalon finish line after fifteen hours, thirty-nine minutes and twenty-five seconds reminds me of the power of one minute of life to make a difference, of one more hour of work, struggle, or discipline to make a difference, and of one Christ-filled, free, beautiful woman to make a difference.
An inspiring image? You bet!