Finishing the race

There are different kinds of endings and different kinds of celebrations.  Yesterday I had my PhD Viva exam and was grateful to pass, pending a few minor corrections.  The day when you can call me Doctor is getting closer – but is likely to be sometime towards March once the corrections have been finalised.  I was pleased with my achievement and thankful for the support of my supervisor and friends and family who have helped me get this far.  I shared some Champagne with some neighbours last night, which had been a gift to celebrate handing in the thesis back in September.

Back at work today my new colleagues were pleased for me, but many of them had other emotions as well.  I had not heard before but one colleague is currently appealing the decision that her thesis should not be examined at PhD level.  Another colleague was very curious about my Viva experience as hers is coming up shortly.  Others of my colleagues have been plodding in the PhD race for a long time and perhaps resent me seeming to sail through while they juggle other work and family commitments and wonder if they’ll ever get it finished.  Another colleague is just starting off a new attempt at a doctorate topic.

During my champagne gathering last night we heard that our dear church friend was really struggling with her health and had gone into hospital.  It was absolutely right to pray together for her and the family – possibly my first prayer meeting which included champagne.  Today she finished her own race and was embraced by her heavenly father.  Though it is very sad for all the family and friends she has left behind, I believe she will be rejoicing, whole and healed.  I am encouraged by the expressions of faith that her husband and children know they will see her again in glory.

I wouldn’t say she lost her battle with cancer.  The victory belongs to God, and she has reached the end of all suffering and pain.  Death has been defeated by the cross of Jesus.  While some of our prayers for healing were not answered in the way we hoped, I know many other prayers have been heard and fulfilled.  We prayed for peace, for sleep, for the knowledge of God’s presence.  We prayed for God’s will to be done in her life.  People today have talked about the privilege of being with her and with her family – that it has been a very special day as well as a sad day.

I guess we never know how much longer we’ve got to run in this race called life.  Maybe we’ve got loads more laps to go.  Maybe we’re finding the road really tough at the moment.  Maybe we’re celebrating.  We are called to run with perseverance, knowing that we are watched by a great cloud of witnesses: those who have gone before us are cheering us on.  And we can encourage each other as well.  Whatever we are facing we are not alone.

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