After placing my order, I stepped to the side as instructed by the friendly young woman behind the counter. I glanced about, noticing the other customers. Traffic zoomed by outside. The sun was shining. I checked the clock on my phone. No need to rush. As my smoothie was being prepared, I settled onto a nearby stool to wait, drumming my fingers to the beat of the music.

Then, much like a time travel seen from a movie, everything around me became like mist. People were talking, but I didn’t hear them. Traffic still moved down the street, but I didn’t see it. I was somewhere else. I was back in 1980-something, an awkward adolescent. And I was dancing. Yes. Dancing. On a stage. In front of people. Lots of people.

I recall red bandanas, rolled up jeans and black and white saddle oxfords. I recall words of encouragement, if not persuasion, from well-meaning adults.

“It’ll be fun.”

“You look so cute!”

“Smile for the camera.”

Billy Joel didn’t seem to care that I was terrified and sweating. He was belting out his hit single, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”.  My face was red. My head hurt because my ponytail was pulled too tight. But, nonetheless, there I was, on stage tapping my toes, twisting my hips and singing along with Mr. Joel. Some of my friends danced alongside me. They didn’t look happy either. We were all in this disaster together.

I think there may have been a ribbon involved when all was said and done. A white one. A participation ribbon. Oh well.

The song faded. The mist cleared and I took my freshly made smoothie and walked out. That was one memory better left in the past.

Funny how one memory can spark others. There is a little red suitcase tucked away somewhere in storage, full of sentimental treasures and more ribbons, several from our local county fair, which was a much anticipated event every year. The barns that held all the homemade goodies, art projects and craft items, awaiting ribbons and awards, were among the most popular. I am pleased to say that I had a few entries over the years, usually drawings from art class or a poem or two. I think I may have won a ribbon. Not a white one. Yay.

Every year at the fair, there were contests to enter, prizes to win and ribbons to take home and post on the refrigerator or mirror. Relay races, bubble gum blowing, hog calling, livestock shows, tractor pulls, pageants and more made the fair a special and memorable time for all. It was fun to win. But when a ribbon wasn’t claimed, the disappointment didn’t last long. There were too many other exciting events to draw one’s attention. Rides and food and games and more prizes were in abundance. And when all was said and done, we’d pile into the car, dirty, hot and sweaty, fall asleep on the ride home, clutching our hard-earned ribbons and prizes from the night.

Scripture speaks of another race and another prize.

Hebrews is full of encouragement, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Philippians lays it out clearly, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

And I Corinthians boldly asks, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?”

The race is Life. The Prize is Christ. If we are breathing, we are in the race. And we will finish it. The question is, “How will we finish?”

I Corinthians also instructs, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Yes. Yes, indeed. When all is said and done (and it will be one day) I hope you have that participation ribbon. Because this particular participation ribbon is more important than anything in your whole life. It’s a simple process really. Repent. Turn. Believe.

The Prize awaits. He’ll be clothed in white and sitting at the right hand of the Father.