Posted by: Kara Luker | January 20, 2021

Running the Race

Something in a church message I recently heard gave me a flashback to running track in high school. I didn’t end up on the team because of speed or athleticism, but to be with my friends and a favorite teacher who also happened to be a coach. I ran the 330 hurdles (which surprised my husband to learn since I have trouble walking through our house without falling over furniture), and the mile. What I most remember about the hurdles was trying really, really hard not to trip over them and fall on my face. What I most remember about the mile was the perpetual frustration of one of my coaches over my habit of breaking into a sprint (or as close as I’ll ever come) once the finish line was in view. Finishing strong seemed like a good thing to me, but it was proof, he said, that I hadn’t been laying it all out there throughout the race.

He was right. I hadn’t been. My biggest fear was – and still is – to come up short. What if I ran too hard at the start and had nothing left to finish? Nope, I wouldn’t risk that kind of failure. I would far rather have a slower time, leaving some gas in the tank to assure my completion; play it safe, you know? As you can imagine, my track career was not very illustrious.

There is certainly wisdom in pacing yourself, but my habit was based in fear, not wisdom. And it’s something I still see playing out – not in track, which I forsook long ago, but in life. Like the way I fiercely guard my energy for fear that I will run out before the day is done, the way I hold back in my generosity to others to make sure I have enough for my own needs and wants, and the way I meagerly measure out my time to others to assure myself the white space that feels crucial to my existence. I have lots of reasons to explain these compulsions, like having been a single mom with low-paying jobs for many years, but the bottom line is that I am operating from a place of fear. And I can prove it by the way I try to control my circumstances and by the panic that hits when things feel beyond my control, like when I don’t get enough sleep or when I feel like I’m failing people’s expectations of me.

I have been seeing this control in full force lately and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. But I believe God is bringing it to the inescapable forefront because He is a very caring Coach who longs to train me with His perfect wisdom so I can run this race well; so much better than my playing-it-safe way of living allows. It’s not about winning. And it has nothing to do with how my abilities compare to anyone else’s. It’s about running the best race I can run with the heart, abilities and resources God has given me. It’s about learning to lay it all out there for my freedom and His glory. 

This doesn’t mean I should say yes to every opportunity like Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man, or give away every dime in my bank account, any more than my track coach meant I should sprint the whole mile. It just means I need to lay down my fears and take up trust so that God can teach me. Sometimes that will mean running harder than I feel I can, pushing me into His reservoir of strength, and sometimes it will mean slowing down – or resting completely – when I feel I should be upping my pace, learning to trust that He is not going to allow me to fall behind. This is how Jesus, in sync with God’s voice, fulfilled his purposes on earth and it’s the only way we are going to be able to do the same.

Of course, every athlete experiences setbacks and we will be no exception. I’ve been through plenty and I’m sure you have too. But I do believe that we were made for this race; to press through with the limitless wisdom and resources of the God who lives in us. As we begin to lay it all out there, I’m pretty sure we will be able to echo the statement of Olympic runner, Eric Liddell, who said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Short clip from Chariots of Fire:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1

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