Kendra Graham Learns What It Means to Finish Well
June 30, 2008 - It was supposed to be a half-marathon, but Kendra Graham took a wrong turn. In spite of the detour, or maybe because of it, she learned a lesson in finishing well.
by Janet Chismar
She ran to support the My Hope World Evangelism through Television project and it was My Hope that kept her going.
Kendra, who is the wife of evangelist Will Graham and daughter-in-law of Franklin, ran the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville on April 26 – at least it was supposed to be a half marathon.
At mile 11, the course split in two for those running a half marathon and those running a full marathon. Somehow, Kendra went the wrong way.
“I ran straight up hill for a mile – completely out of the way,” she explains. When Kendra reached the top, something told her to turn around and see who was with her. “And I never turn around when I race. I never pull my head up. I never look to the right or the left. I plow through.”
When Kendra did turn around, she noticed she was surrounded by a sea of yellow tags. Half marathoners were wearing orange. “I freaked out,” she admits with a laugh.
As she changed direction to backtrack to mile 11, she happened to join the elite Olympian runners. “So there I was, running with the Olympians. I was afraid I would be kicked out of the race for cheating, so I had to run at their pace. I felt like my body was being torn asunder, but I did it. I kept up with them. Nobody passed me.”
Kendra got back to mile 11 and as she was going over the barrier, one of the officials helped her. The woman looked at her tag and realized what happened. The lady had words of encouragement for Kendra: “Don’t you cry. You run this in – you don’t walk, you run this in as well as you can. And she gave me a little swat and I did. I ran it in those last three miles.”
Running for a Reason
Kendra admits the only thing that kept her going at the pace of Olympians and a mile off track was My Hope. “The only thing I focused on was that I’m running for a reason and that reason is the gospel. It is more important that I run and finish well for The One I’m really running for.”
Every drop of sweat had value, she says: "It means a soul going to heaven; it means a pastor gets the training and encouragement that he needs. Every mile that I ran, that’s one more home that can be used to share the gospel."
She was not running for a personal record, to gain a medal, or for a sense of achievement: “I can give nothing but my best to the Lord for Him to do His work. I am just humbled that I would be allowed to do that. So, what’s a little pain, what’s a little disappointment and frustration because I am directionally impaired? God entrusted this to me and I needed to show myself worthy."
In the Race of Life
Kendra points out that Christians must show themselves worthy in even the little things of everyday life: “If you give your all to the Lord in a race, or give your all to the Lord in cleaning your house, or give your all to the Lord in potty training your children – it doesn’t matter what you are doing, if you give it all to the Lord.”
Another spiritual parallel the race provided was the importance of teamwork. "It helped to know that another runner was running for the same cause," says Kendra. "We had more excitement together. When we were getting tired, we were able to remind each other, 'It’s for the gospel.' I think that’s what the Lord says. It’s great if one person is totally sold out to Christ, but what if two were, or what if 20 were sold out to Christ?"
Perhaps the most important lesson in the race and in life is recovering when you step off track. “You know what? You just have to turn around and you have to go back,” says Kendra. “The quicker you get back on track, the better you are going to finish. It’s all about how you finish – you finish well. It doesn’t matter how you started or the bumps along the way, it’s about how are you going to finish."
Kendra draws encouragement from Isaiah 43:10. "We all need to run and not grow weary," she adds as encouragement. "No matter how far you veer off track – run and don’t grow weary."
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