Run Your Own Race
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:13,14
Yesterday I ran in our church gym with some friends of mine while my baby girl played with some balls, occasionally running with us.
When we first started running, I wondered how it would go. I usually run by myself, so I’m not used to keeping pace with someone else. As we began to run, I discovered that we all had a different pace and we all ran in different directions. One of my friends had an iPod and was singing with her songs, unaware that we had a radio station playing. Another friend has been running in the gym for the past several weeks so she had a plan. She did laps interspersed with diagonal sprints and she changed it up rather frequently. And me? I’m more of a steady pace kind of runner. I prefer to run outside with a change of scenery, but necessity (i.e. living through the winter in Upstate New York with a toddler’s schedule to consider) has demanded that I run indoor laps. Mundane. Boring. But effective.
Our different strategies in running are teaching me something valuable about life. The one thing that was the same for all of us is that we all showed up. A year ago, this would not have been true for me. I am NOT a runner and I will NEVER be a runner was pretty much my attitude for 39 years. But yesterday, I came prepared to prove that my attitude has changed. I showed up with a water bottle, workout clothes on, sneakers ready, hair pulled back.
It’s funny how I can want certain things from life and then not do the work to show up and be prepared. One of my dreams is to have a book published, but if I never actually write, I can be pretty confident that there is zero chance of this happening. I want to earn some money for our family while still being a stay-at-home mom. This won’t happen if I don’t seize the opportunities that come my way.
As I run my race, I have noticed my tendency to compare my pace to others. I see women that I admire way off in the distance and I am tempted to feel like a failure. I see others who won’t even join the race and I feel an ache for them, a desire to pull them off the couches and encourage them to run. And then there are those that I want to run with, but for some reason, they are going in a different direction.
How do I reconcile all of these things and be faithful to running the race that is laid before ME?
I think it starts with being intentional, understanding that I need to show up and be prepared. But it continues with a focus on the goal set before me. I have discovered that I need to have a predetermined length in mind before I start to run. I also need to have a race that I am “training” for. Without a goal, running seems pointless to me. But with a goal? It makes it purposeful, it provides satisfaction, and I feel strong. As I think about my goal in life, what it boils down to is that I want to live with a heavenward focus. The things that I do- are they pointing others to Jesus? Are they pointing ME to Jesus? Do I seek His glory or my own?
As I seek to live out the purposes and the goals I have set for my life with the overarching goal of bringing glory to God firmly in place, I must remember that I need to run MY race and that there is nothing inherently selfish in this. When I see others who are further ahead, I need to celebrate their successes rather than bemoaning my own inadequacies. When I see friends who are struggling to live out their purpose, I need to remember that my role is not to pull them along. Rather it is to show by example that following where God leads is life giving and worth pursuing. The is legacy leaving living (how’s that for a tongue twister?!!).
I find that I struggle the most when I discover that friends are running in a different direction that excludes me. It is one thing to have different passions, but when I can tell that there is a break in a friendship, I struggle. I’m learning something about this. It is really okay. Sometimes God allows my path to cross with another, for our pace to match for a time, but it is just that. For a time. We might not be best friends forever after and that is perfectly okay.
Our individual race should encourage others to run the race that is set before them. My faithfulness in running will spur others on, just as the faithfulness of others keeps me heading in the right direction.
This morning, a friend of mine showed up on my doorstep ready to work out. In the busyness of a week filled with sickness, I had forgotten our plan. Ten minutes later, I was ready to exercise. Oh, how I need those friends- the ones who keep me accountable, who pursue me, who help me to be faithful to my journey. And I want to be that kind of friend too.
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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:1-3
Let’s run our own races, but let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!