By Eddie Wynn

Every year on Facebook, I re-post a photo of Braylen and me crossing the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle in Lexington Kentucky. The story behind the photo is an example of how God used a simple event to impact my life many years later.

The Shamrock Shuffle is a 3K race held in March every year to benefit the local Habitat for Humanity. I asked Braylen to join me for the race one year. Although only seven years old at the time, she was already quite the athlete and would do well even though she had never run a race like this before. She was happy to try something new, and excited to get an official race bib and an official time.

The race starts at 7:00 am on the Saturday closest to Saint Patrick’s Day. The weather is always uncertain this time of year, and on the Saturday we raced it was a cold 41 degrees with a light, steady rain. Braylen was dressed for the weather with some additional St Paddy’s Day sparkle. She wore a green tutu, green socks and gloves, and a headband with big green clovers attached to long springs. The clovers swayed back and forth as she moved. She thought her super cool, one-of-a-kind headband was sure to bring her luck.

I helped Braylen put on her race bib, Number 1342, and we stepped into the chilly morning, toward the start line. This is the first race of the season, and it attracts hundreds of runners. She was surprised to see so many people.

“Papaw, a lot of people are running today.”

“This race raises money for a local charity and always has lots of support.” I said.

“Do you think I can win?”

“You are a good runner, but let’s just have fun, do our best and not worry about winning. Let’s just make sure we finish.”

Braylen looked at me and smiled her big, beautiful smile. She shook the clovers on the springs of her super cool head band for luck. I am not an expert runner by any means. 10K is my max distance and 5K is my favorite. The only advice I gave Braylen was “Start slowly, watch out for other runners, and see how you feel running in this weather.”

“But I want to run fast.”

“I know but it’s cold and rainy, and you haven’t been in a race like this before.”

“It’s a race Papaw, and you always run fast in a race.”

“Braylen this race is a little different, it’s longer than any race you’ve done, and you’ll need to pace yourself, so you have the energy to finish.”

“I’m a good runner.”

“I know. I’ll let you set the pace; I’ll follow your lead.” The whole while I thought – I am going to be carrying this child on my back before this is over.

At the starting line we did the countdown aloud together – 5-4-3-2-1 – the horn sounded, and we were off.

Just as she said, she started fast! There was a sea of people to get past and she weaved in and out of traffic like a pro. She was smiling, enjoying the moment – for the first half mile. I watched her facial expressions change as we ran. Her cheeks reddened, she grew cold, and her smile faded a bit.

“You okay Braylen”

“Yeah, this is fun.”

We ran a little more.

“Papaw how much farther?”

 I checked my watch. “We have only run about a half mile.”

“That’s all?”

“Yes Braylen, you’re doing great.”

She ripped off her festive head band that was so cool a few minutes ago. “These clovers are bumping my head and it’s annoying me.” She tossed it aside. Braylen’s pace slowed considerably. She was cold, wet, and tired.

When we reached Main Street, I was excited because I could see the finish line banner hanging over the street about a half mile ahead. Braylen not being very tall, couldn’t see the banner because of the runners in front of her.

“Papaw I’m tired.

“I know, but we’re almost there. You can do this!”

“I want to stop. I’m tired and this is not fun anymore.”

“Don’t quit now! The finish line is just ahead, you’re almost there. You have come so far!”

“I can’t see the finish line, It’s cold and I’m tired.”

“I see the finish line, Braylen. I know where it is. You’re so close. It’s almost over.”

“I’m tired.” She ran silently awhile. “Papaw?”

“Yes”

“Will you help me? Will you hold my hand?”

“Of course, I’ll hold your hand!”

I reached down and took her cold, wet hand in mine, and we finished the race together. Her beautiful smile returned as we celebrated our accomplishment. She did not win. She didn’t earn a ribbon or medal. But she never gave up! She crossed the finish line.

As it is for so many other people, life is tough for me right now. I’m currently going through a dark time and, like Braylen, sometimes I want to quit. I’m tired and it is cold here. Life can be overwhelming and often throws things at you that are out of your control. You can get bogged down with life’s daily issues and it’s a struggle to walk, let alone run.

Sometimes it feels like you don’t have a friend, and you are all alone. This is a common trick Satan uses to attack and confuse us. He wants us to feel like we are on an island, all alone, forgotten and abandoned. Matthew 18 shares a story about the Good Shephard (Jesus) leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one lost sheep who had wandered off and was all alone. Me, He left the ninety-nine to find me.

Satan tries to convince us to stop running towards God. What’s the point? Relax and have some fun. Stop trying. You’re just going to fail, again!

In my daily race, God noticed my pace slowed down considerably, He saw my facial expressions change and my smile fade. He knows I’m tired. All the trouble in my life is blocking my view of the finish line. I’m sure God is thinking to Himself, “I am going to be carrying this child on my back before this is over.”

“You okay my child?”

“Life’s not going well right now and I’m not having any fun.”

“I know, but it will get better.”

“When? God I’m tired.”

“I know you’re tired, but you’re almost there. You can do this!”

“God, I want to stop. I can’t do this anymore. I’m hurting.”

“Don’t quit now. The finish line is just ahead. You are almost there. You have come so far.”

“I can’t see the finish line. It’s dark here and it’s cold!”

“I see the finish line. I know where it is. You’re so close. It’s almost over.”

“I’m tired.” I’m silent awhile. “God?”

“Yes, my child.”

“Will you help me? Would you hold my hand?”

“My child, I’ve been holding your hand the entire race!”

 I will finish this race; cross the finish line. We will celebrate this accomplishment together.

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”               Isaiah 41:13 NKJV

Eddie Wynn is a dedicated father and family enthusiast whose heart finds comfort in his faith. He worked in a manufacturing plant for thirty years. Though he doesn’t consider himself a writer by trade, he does enjoy sharing his true-life experiences with others. His faith and his family shape his world.