Winning would have been wonderful. But for Bou Samnang, perseverance garnered a prize more precious than a gold medal. Her blood sugar level had dropped because of chronic anemia, yet Samnang ran the women’s 5000-meter (3.1-mile) race in the Southeast Asian Games for host country Cambodia, her homeland. A thunderous, drenching storm had driven most spectators from the stands by the time Samnang came in last, nearly six minutes behind the winner. Only Samnang’s supporters stayed put. In the video of her exhausted finish, which went viral, you can hear their cheers over the roaring rain.
Bou Samnang seems to have had the capacity to do as St. James urges: Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials. She must have known that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. “Even if you go slow, it’s much better than not finishing,” she told an interviewer. “Keep going forward and keep persevering.”
When religious experts buttonholed Jesus, he kept going forward. He rowed toward other shores where people who were poor, brokenhearted, and ill could receive his message of mercy and deliverance. From a cynical viewpoint, Jesus finished last. For refusing to be true to himself or give up on his society’s losers, he was crucified. But death was not Jesus’ finish line, and so—alleluia—neither is it yours or mine. Wherever we go, however slowly, whatever our trials, may we keep going forward for the love of God.
Rachel M. Srubas
Rachel M. Srubas is a Presbyterian clergywoman and Benedictine oblate. She is the author of numerous books, including The Desert of Compassion: Devotions for the Lenten Journey