“Run with perseverance the race that is set before you.” This quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews sustained me the one year I ran the Boston Marathon — in 2008. Along with the supportive crowds along the entire 26.2 mile course, this mantra carried me from Hopkinton to Wellesley to Heartbreak Hill and into Copley Square. It is a quote we need now more than ever.
With Monday’s events we have collectively hit the dreaded wall. Unspeakable violence has been visited upon the purest of human pursuits with three dead, 150 injured, and the innocence of an iconic event forever altered. The images of destruction amid what would normally be a scene of unmitigated joy and triumph are seared into our minds as shouts of encouragement morphed into screams of terror.
It would be easy to quit or walk away — that’s the standard reaction when you hit the wall. I hit it pretty hard in my first marathon, a result of the classic rookie mistake of starting too fast. Around mile 18 of the 2005 Baltimore Marathon I started cursing my decision to enter the race. I began walking although what I really wanted was to curl up in the fetal position underneath the table at one of the water stops. Eventually, I snapped out of it and continued on to the finish line. I ended with my inflated time goal blown but was both proud and relieved as I swore off ever running another marathon.
I have no doubt that the city of Boston, all of New England, and our entire nation will push through the wall. Like the runners themselves, we are a resilient people. Unlike the elite runners, we may not win any races but we never give up in the face of adversity. We muddle through, placing one foot in front of the other. We keep moving forward partly because we have no choice but also because we believe in running with perseverance the race that is set before us.
Having this happen on Patriot’s Day only strengthens our resolve as we hearken back to the spirit of our nation’s forebears. Paul Revere’s lantern reminds us that the darkness of tyranny and hate cannot overcome the light of liberty and love. Just as John’s gospel says of Jesus Christ’s entrance into the world, “The light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”
As we continue to wade through the carnage and seek answers, I find it helpful to focus on the stories of heroism and selflessness that abound. So many have reached out their hands in love and compassion both in the immediate aftermath and in the intervening hours and days. In this Easter season, I see these acts as glimpses of resurrection glory amid the despair. As Jesus conquered death and the grave on that first Easter Day, he continues to do just that in our own lives even in the face of tragedy.
As people of faith our first response is always prayer. On Monday evening, as we held an impromptu prayer service at St. John’s, we closed with the following prayer. As you continue to pray for the victims, their families, first responders, medical personnel, and those affected by these horrific events, I encourage you to reflect upon it.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.