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. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

This passage from the book of Hebrews has always been one of my favorite verses. In the few-and-far-between seasons of my life when I am a runner, I love to meditate on this verse as I run. Life is a race — A marathon! — and I am so encouraged to think of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me.

The phrase in the version with which I am familiar reads "the sin that so easily entangles." This phrase kind of tripped me up. To me it sounded as if sin is a creeping vine that seems friendly, enticing, and harmless until you realize that you’re in too deep and helplessly stuck.

While I know that’s true of sin in so many ways, it didn’t fit with the running analogy to me. Most runners I know avoid running through foliage. Also sin, in my own personal experience, is much more like a wrecking ball in the cartoons than it is like a vine — creeping or otherwise. By the time I have identified the sin (wrecking ball), I am lying flat on my back, complete with stars and birdies circling my head, wondering how I got there.

I battle with finally laying down this.
However, more recently I have come to think of this phrase in a new way. I am struggling with forgiveness — even somewhat struggling with laying down the badge that identifies me as "someone wronged." I know this is not the life Christ has called me to embrace, yet I battle with finally laying down this burden of another’s sin. I have prayed and thought and meditated about why this is so difficult to let go.

I recently prayed asking God to let me run this race victoriously. That’s when this verse came to mind: I must throw off the sin that so easily entangles! Sometimes I cling to my past sins and let them weigh me down. Sometimes I cling to another’s sin against me and let that weigh me down. It’s impossible to run with perseverance the race marked out before me if I am clinging to all of the burdens of the past — my own or anyone else’s. Christ calls me to run victoriously and I can’t do that with my hands full of old junk. It hinders me and I must lay it down if I want to run the race ... victoriously.

The apostle Paul gives us this victory thanksgiving: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14) I love to think of the "triumphal procession" as the time we are being led in as a victory parade after we have finished our race victoriously. We already know who wins this race. Now, let’s run it victoriously!