We frequently hear folks compare life to a marathon. Fair enough. Good analogy. But as a sports mom I’d like to expand that word picture to suggest that life is more like a track meet (a kind of marathon, right?) Any mom who has endured this spring sport staple knows what I’m talking about. Invariably your student athlete is scheduled to run the first race and the last one …12 hours later…in the cold rain… or in the blazing sun. Blankets or sunblock and lots of snacks are part of the survival plan. Yes ma’am, track meets are not for the faint of heart. Neither is this life.

So, for this month’s “From the Heart” encouragement, in the spirit of spring track, Heart of Womanhood is going to step up to the lines of Hebrews 12:1-2. Unlike monotonous laps on a track, however, I pray that today God’s Holy Spirit through these familiar verses will bring you a fresh “second wind” so you can cross the finish line of this season with His strength.

“Therefore, since you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…run with perseverance the race marked out for you, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the forerunner and finisher of your faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Yes. Your life is like a distance race. But it’s also like my favorite track event—the relay! As both an individual AND team event, life is like a relay— and other runners are depending on YOU, moms and daughters, to run well!

You are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.

These Hebrews verses picture a stadium filled with people. So, first take comfort in knowing that —You. Are. Surrounded. Who is this great cloud of witnesses? The Message version suggests, “Do you see what this means? These are pioneers who blazed the way: these veterans are cheering us on!”

In Hebrews 11, the author had just panned the stadium and highlighted many of the biblical pioneers of the faith like Abraham, Joseph, Abraham, Sarah…etc. Each of them ran their leg/lap faithfully and have now handed the baton to you and me! Holy Heroes and “She-roes” are cheering us on from the heavenly grandstands.

Who are your personal favorite pioneers of the faith from the Bible or your own life experiences? Envision them as your cloud of witnesses, your cheering section, today! Grab hold of the fact that the baton is NOW in your hands to “run with perseverance the race set before YOU.”

Run with perseverance the race set before YOU!

In the FCA huddles I sponsor, each year I give personalized relay batons to the senior lead team as they graduate. These are multipurpose awards intended to thank these teen leaders for running their leg faithfully PLUS encourage them to carry with boldness the batons God places in their hands in the years to come. One key component is that these batons have their individual names on them. Why is that important? Because many times we are tempted to want and try to carry someone else’s baton. To run someone else’s race.

However, as your Head Coach, God has a baton (or two or three:) with your name on it that He’s placed in your hands for this season. What could the baton(s) represent for you? Your gifts, talents, areas of passion and influence are clues to consider, but batons could also represent circumstances or suffering—or open doors of opportunity.

Run with focus–fixing your eyes on Jesus, the forerunner and finisher of our faith.

No matter what your current track assignment is, your Coach’s orders are simple (but not necessarily easy): “Run with faithful focus- fixing your eyes on Jesus— the forerunner and finisher of our faith.” As we keep running in our lane, God will hand us the batons that He has divinely placed our names upon.

And our Coach goes the second mile with us. He doesn’t just toss you a baton and say, “Good luck with this.” Instead, God repeats that Jesus promises to be both our “forerunner and our anchor/finisher” in both Hebrews chapter 6 and 12. Today, you can “run with perseverance” confident that Jesus is your “lead off runner,” but He is also the strong “anchor leg” for the race ahead of you. To round out His four-person relay squad, God’s powerful Holy Spirit runs as your middle-man—not only with you…but IN you! Yes. God has stacked His team to win!

To assure the win, however, it’s important to note that one specific skill in relays is crucial to practice. What relay skill requires the most time and training? Hands down (every pun intended) —It is the handoff! Each runner in the relay squad can run fast, but if they do not successfully hand off the baton to the next runner, the whole team is disqualified and loses. To make it even more challenging, the hand off must take place within a narrow short space marked in your lane on the track. This designated box is called the exchange zone.

The Exchange Zone

Ladies, like a relay, the exchange zones in our lives are relatively narrow and short too. What are some of your exchange zones right now? Who do you have the chance to pass the baton of faith to in this season? Your exchange zones may include teams/sport seasons, classes/school years, neighbors, jobs/co-workers, and of course family/children!

If you are like me, it’s the last one that makes me take a deeper breath each time. Our window of time to hand the baton of faith, life skills, character training etc to our “home team” may cover over two decades, but in real time that exchange zone is only a short span with limited moments to hand what’s needed to the next generation.

Heart of Womanhood ministry exists to place biblical tools into the hands of moms to make this passing of the baton easier and more effective. The Portraits Bible Study series is one way you can intentionally pass the baton of faith to your daughters by studying biblical “She-roes” during a verse-by-verse study of Proverbs 31. These 31 life lessons focus on applying God’s Word in practical (hands on life skills) and powerful (heart changing noble character) ways so that the next generation of women “will be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

For the JOY set before Him—and us

The older I get, the more I realize that each life is actually a very small exchange zone, and the most important baton we carry and handoff is the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. In light of eternity, our quick lap around the track ends when we see Jesus face to face either through death or His return. Until then, let’s make clean handoffs during life’s short exchange zone before the finish line of heaven.

Jesus did. You see, Jesus finished His earthly lap with the ultimate exchange. He took each of our batons of sin into His own hands on the cross so that today we can run our races focused and free! The relay of life is not for the faint of heart. But if we take hold of the exchange Jesus offers us, we can also carry with us Jesus’ secret to not losing heart in this relay.

“For the JOY set before Him, Jesus endured the cross…and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him so you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3)

Wow! In the ultimate relay for our redemption, the JOY set before Jesus was YOU and me! He ran His race with us in His sights. With us in His heart! Today, because of Jesus, JOY is set before us too. Our Joy is a person (Jesus), a place (heaven), and a position (our seat reserved with Jesus at God’s right hand).

So, hold out your right hands, sisters. Take hold of Christ’s baton of eternal JOY. And pass the baton of faith boldly to the next generation.

Yes, we are God’s relay squad, trained to be women who stay “on track” and live “in the zone”—-His exchange zone!