Monday, July 11, 2022
I want to introduce you to Queen Elantra. She is not officially a queen, but in my mind, she is the queen of endurance. She is my niece.
Several years ago I attended a special breakfast for her at her school. She was receiving an award which recognized her as one of her high school’s students of the month. The teacher that nominated her did so because of her determination and endurance. It’s not so much the fact that she’s one of the top students of the school, or that she excels at competitive sports like soccer and track. What makes her the queen is that she is legally blind. She has Stargardt’s disease. It is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. As a result, she has no central field of vision and only limited peripheral vision. But that doesn’t stop the queen.
At the end of our visit with her, she had loaded up all her stuff for school the next day. The night before she had helped her mother bake a king’s cake for French class. I helped her carry it to her classroom. She also had her laptop computer equipped with special magnification programs to help her do her schoolwork. She had her small duffel bag with her track clothes, because she had a track meet that afternoon. She had her book bag filled with homework. She carried everything but the cake and led me through the halls of a crowded Chicago suburb high school without any assistance. She is the queen.
I called her the next day to see how she did in the meet. She took first place in two sprint events – the 55-meter dash and the 200-meter dash – and she was on two relay teams that took second place. Imagine a legally blind girl running around a track, staying in her lane, while receiving and handing off a baton to teammates. She is the queen. It was even more fun hearing about her soccer exploits as she was one of her team’s leading scorers.
Nothing has ever stopped my niece from pursuing her goals and dreams. In her mind she has no disability. She now works full-time, plus helps care for her sister’s little girl. That’s because she knows that her physical abilities and disabilities are not what define her. Her inner spirit is what defines her. She has decided to endure all obstacles to be her best. She is the queen of endurance.
In spite of her visual challenges, she sees far better than most of us. I know that there are worse things than Stargardt’s that can happen to people. But when anything debilitating happens to us, we immediately think the worst, and endurance isn’t the first word that pops into our head. Anger happens. Blame happens. Depression happens. Quitting happens. All this happens because our eyes are fixed on the immediate. We are so near-sighted. Yet the queen of endurance, who is the most physically near-sighted person I’ve ever known, has the best vision of anyone I’ve ever known. She sees the joy that is coming at the end of the race.
In Hebrews 12 we read these encouraging words. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Are you weary? Have you lost heart? Is your vision excessively near-sighted so that all you can see are the disabilities of life? Then refocus your eyes on the finish line. Someone who ran a much more difficult race is standing there waiting for you. Start running your race of life with endurance. Jesus did. The queen does. You can.