During the 1907 Boston Marathon, a passing train divided the field. The ten front-runners had already crossed the tracks, but the rest of the participants had to stop and wait a minute and 15 seconds for the train to pass before they could continue.
Among those who had to wait was Bob Fowler. He was an experienced marathoner who understood the importance of running slowly during the first half and saving energy for the second half, which is mostly uphill. You can imagine the horror he must have felt when he saw the train coming and knew he wouldn’t be able to beat it. As he stood there helplessly, he not only lost 75 precious seconds to the front-runners, but many of the runners that were behind him were able to catch up.
When the train finally passed, Bob Fowler took off and pushed himself to the limit of his ability and endurance. He turned in an actual running time that would have won most Boston Marathons, but the unanticipated delay gave the victory to a man named Tom Longboat.*
If you’re a person who lives with the pedal to the metal (and who isn’t these days?), having to unexpectedly slam on the brakes no doubt drives you crazy. But it’s helpful to remember that for every Bob Fowler, there is a Tom Longboat. For every person who is hurt by a delay, there’s another person who is helped. None of us has any way of knowing how many times we have been helped or spared because of a delay.
Not long ago, I got a phone call just as I was in a hurry to leave the house. The call lasted a couple of minutes and then I was on my way. Not far from my house, I came upon an accident that had just happened. I couldn’t help wondering if that 2-minute phone call kept me from being in that accident.
The next time you encounter a frustrating delay, relax.
It might be God’s way of protecting you.
For further reflection read: Lamentations 3:9, Numbers 20:14-21, Psalm 27:14.
*Tom Derderian, The Boston Marathon (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2003), 42