On Second Thought: A face in the crowd – everyone needs a cheering section

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2023

CLEMMONS — Three years into his running career, my son still always says before races, “You don’t have to come.”

For three years, at every single cross country, indoor track and outdoor track meet, someone from our family has been there to cheer him on.

Oftentimes, his cheering squad is quite a medley of characters, not just parents, but siblings and grandparents, and even a few cousins and dogs thrown into the mix.

One thing is certain: no matter what my son says, if he is racing, someone will be there to cheer him on. But my son doesn’t want to be a burden. Saturday morning races in Charlotte and Raleigh at 8 a.m. mean quite the early mornings. Several nights a week, running track where his events fall at the beginning and end of the three-hour meet make for quite the long night.

When my son cautions that we don’t need to be there, he’s trying to respect our time, knowing he takes the lion’s share of it right now. Here’s the thing: there is no way we wouldn’t be there to support him if we could. We want to cheer him on, to encourage him, to celebrate his accomplishments or even help lessen the heartache of defeat; in short, we don’t cheer out of obligation, we cheer out of love.

This love and support doesn’t just stop with our son; it extends to his teammates as well. We want every kid on the team to know that they have someone in their corner, screaming at the top of their lungs, ringing cowbells, and jumping up and down, shouting their name.

Not every parent can attend every meet, and yet, we still want every child to have a cheering section, even if that is us. So, that’s what we’ve done. I’m there to find extra safety pins for race numbers at the start of a meet or high five and congratulate each runner with a big smile at the end. My husband has the loudest voice and can always be heard over the other spectators as he yells out times or cautions about someone gaining speed from behind. As a matter of fact, at the end-of-season banquet last year, two of the seniors thanked him for his support as “team dad” in their speeches and even acknowledged that they could indeed always hear his voice at every turn!

And whether we are on a track or a field in the middle of the woods, I think we all need a cheering section. Life is hard. There are always twists and turns that threaten to knock us down or take the wind out of our sails, and weathering these storms alone? That sounds miserable. When we are at our lowest, we need those friendly faces to remind us that this too shall pass; when we are at the top of the mountain, we need someone to celebrate with and acknowledge our achievements.

Even the great apostle Paul didn’t travel alone. In Acts 13, when Saul, who later became known as Paul, was sent out by the church on his first missionary journey, he wasn’t sent alone; he was sent with someone. But not just anyone. Barnabus. A man whose name means “son of encouragement.” And in so many places throughout the Bible, we find Barnabus doing just that: encouraging. It seems as if the church sent Paul out on what they knew would undoubtedly be a very hard journey, with his own cheering section in tow.

And maybe as you read this you are thinking to yourself, who is in my cheering section? A spouse or child? Parent or grandparent? Or maybe you just aren’t sure if you even have a cheering section at all? If that’s the case, I want you to know one thing: God is always ready and waiting to cheer you on. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that God doesn’t just like us, He delights in us, and He rejoices over us in singing. Rain or shine, personal record or not, God is always there to celebrate us, to cheer us on, to encourage us and push us forward. With God, we’ve got our own cheering section; mighty and powerful, and never growing weary. And if we just stop and listen, I’m confident we will always hear God’s voice above all the rest; cheering us on at every twist and turn, even when we tell Him we can do it on our own. We aren’t a burden to God; He wants to be right in the middle of every race with us, cowbells and all.