Mane and I talked today about the Red Lantern Award. The Red Lantern is awarded to the last person to complete the Iditarod each year. It started out as a joke, but it has come to represent persistence, perseverance. More good words. The last person to finish the race has stuck to it through the same things everyone else went through without the glory of winning, or coming in 2nd or 10th or 22nd.
This year that person will be the 60th person to complete the race. The race began with 82 mushers and their dogs. Some "scratched" for injuries. Some crashed their sled and could not continue. At least one person had ill dogs. Completing the Iditarod, no matter how slowly, means you have met a challenge and prevailed. No easy task. Not something just anyone is up for.
It's a beautiful object lesson in perseverance. Races are often used as an analogy for living the Christian life. Paul, in the New Testament, admonishes believers to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. I love the Iditarod as a particular analogy, though, because it isn't short. It isn't a sprint. It isn't even the 26-mile Grandma's Marathon. It's over a week long...through wind and snow and dark of night. The mushers go alone most of the way, with checkpoints to stop and rest and markers along the way. They are expected to help each other in trouble, though, and they are expected to make wise choices about their dogs, their team.
And a lantern is lit at the beginning of the race that is not blown out until the last musher has finished the race...thus, the Red Lantern awarded to the final musher to cross the finish line. There is something about this that speaks of the way you aren't really alone in the race. People know you're out there, and they are waiting for you, with the lantern light still shining. And there's no ridicule for finishing last, only a welcome embrace congratulating you for your persistence.