The last two articles here have been about Italy, and specifically artwork at the Vatican, some of which I was impressed with, and some not. Continuing in that high-brow mode of art criticism, I want to share another rare cultural experience I had just last week. It was the extended Thanksgiving weekend, and while many went to stores to exchange aggravation for varying degrees of savings, my older son invited me to the drag races. The Bradenton Motorsports Park Drag races to be precise.
Twenty dollars they wanted for an entry ticket! For $20.00 you expect quite a show, at least I did. That’s three dollars more than the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel tour included. Apparently, I was not the only person finding the entrance a little pricey—we were the only non-family members of the racers in the bleachers. And almost the only ones in the bleachers period.
There were a decent number of racers though. Heavily modified normal cars roared down the strip as we got there. Loud, but relatively quickly, they would zip by. I strained to see who won at the end of the strip, but found the times posted on the big boards half way down the track easier to decipher.
By the time we found the right seat (any concert has a sweet spot) the cars had turned to dragsters—those really long cars with skinny tires in the front, the driver in the middle, and the engine towards the back to give traction to the bigger back tires. We sat downstream from the start, looking at the back side of the “Christmas Tree,” the lights that count down to green.
It was there that I found something unusual. The lights went green at different times for each of the cars. Why was that!? Who was setting the handicap on this one? So now I’m looking at the cars at the end, figuring that’s who would win the race – the guy who crossed that line first after the handicapping. But no, that wasn’t it.
Next up came the Junior Dragsters. They looked like regular dragsters, but at about 1/3 of the scale. With Briggs and Stratton engines (if you have ever mowed a lawn, you know what I am talking about), they cruised down the strip at a, well, lawn mower speed.
And those boys, yes, it was for children, they also had the handicapping. And the winner was not always the one that passed the line first. Then came people’s daily drivers. A loud raised diesel pick-up truck went up against a Tesla SUV. A Mustang GT against a Dodge Charger. Same thing, sometimes they left at the same time, sometimes they got to the end at the same time, but the winner was determined by another factor.
It turns out that when you get in line, you let the guy running the computers know how fast you think you will do the pass. Down to the 100th of a second. So you might say 14.56 seconds if you had a truck, or 7.32 if you had a dragster. Or 300 if it was a Briggs and Stratton. Just kidding. It just felt that way.
The goal was to do the run the closest you guessed you would go. Down to the 100th of a second. Getting the first digit as almost always right. The second occasionally. But down to the hundredth? Only once did I see that.
“Hitting the mark” was the goal of the race. The handicapping was just for the optics. Only the real close moved to the next round. Thus, a slow pick-up truck might advance against a quick Tesla just because the times were closer.
This made me smile. What we call sin in Greek is “ἁμαρτίαν” which literally means “missing the mark.” When we miss the goal that God has set for us, we sin. This is a different way of looking at it from just “doing bad things.” It’s that we can miss, by varying degrees, the ideal that God sets for us. And kind of like the cars, what that goal is, what that desire that God has for us, can vary from one person to another, but we all “miss the mark.” (Romans 3:23) Striving for perfection varies from one person to another based on the gifts that God has given to each one of us. But our goal is the same – to hit the mark, to be Christlike in all that we do and say and think. With the gifts, graces and talents that each one of us has.
I’m glad I went to the races. I’m glad I had earplugs. And it was a good lesson that the race is won by the one who most closely comes to their mark, not the one who was just faster, or louder or shinier.
Back in Boca,
Let us run with endurance the race set 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. Hebrews 12:1,2