Run. Running. Race. The words make me wince. There’s a reason for that. I was thinking about it today while I walked at a brisk pace along the treadmill at the gym–and everyone else ran. Then this post came to mind, and I decided to resurrect it from my old blog.
Let’s start with my “inspiration.”
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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12: 1-2
I didn’t do a lot of running in school. For one thing, I went to small, private schools that just didn’t have elaborate P.E. programs–particularly not competitive sports. Additionally, I was the kid who passed out after .10 mile. Yeah. That’s not a joke by the way. Just sayin’.
However, my brothers ran.
I remember my parents telling the story about my shrimpy brother, Berechyn, running in a track meet. The people all around Mom and Dad commented on the runners, their favorites, the ones they didn’t think were any good–that kind of thing. Once the gun was fired, most of the comments revolved around how Bear just kept a steady pace behind the pack. They said things like, “That kid can’t keep up” and “He’s just too little to be in this group.” Then he kicked it up a notch. He passed the first kid, the second. Runner after runner got a taste of his tailwind as he flew past and finished first. The comments changed to things like, “Look at the calves on that kid!”
By the way, he got those calves because my dad used to take the garbage can lids with him on his way to work and dump them a mile or two away from the house. The boys had to wake up and run in opposite directions (because for a while they were taking turns sleeping in, while the other retrieved the lid) to get those lids before school started. For the record, I obviously got different genes.
But… one thing I learned from Bear was that when you’re racing, you don’t look behind you. You don’t look from side to side. It will slow you down. You look straight ahead, at the finish line and you RUN. You keep your “eye on the prize” as they say. I think this is where that saying came from– Hebrews 12:1-2.
But as Christians, do we do that?
Do we run “our race” (or as we more sedentary folk call it, our “Christian walk”) focused on Jesus? Or, do we let our eyes wander to see how well our brethren are doing in their races? Are we concerned with keeping our eyes on Jesus or are we obsessed with the log in our brother’s eye that is holding HIM back? Is that why we keep stumbling and falling? Does it happen because, like Peter, we take our eyes off Jesus and the reality around us knocks us down?
Look, I know it’s not a perfect analogy. We need to be there to help one another. I would hope that winning a race would not be so important to me that I would not stop to help someone in it that truly needed ME to be the one to stop. But I think that sometimes we try to be “all things to all men, all at once, all the time, all by ourselves” as Richard Swenson, author of the book Margin, likes to put it.
In a race, there are those who are assigned the task of helping the fallen. That might be you. It might not. But is your task to critique the running style of your comrades? Is your task to focus on where they could improve their technique? Since when is it okay to obsess over the flaws of others and glory in your superior style? If they ask for pointers on how to imitate yours, do you get upset when they discover it doesn’t work for them? Maybe their legs are shorter, maybe they don’t have the type of endurance you have, or maybe they just haven’t built up the muscle to run the same race yet.
Perhaps they need to do sprints for now, or maybe you’re the sprinter and they are the marathoners who look like they’re not getting anywhere, but at the end of the road, you both have won your prizes.
It just feels like there’s a lot of focus on critiquing the race that our brethren are running and not enough focus on staying our own course. Sounds scarily familiar. Starts with a Ph… Phoenician? Philippian? Pharisee? Eeek… yeah. That one.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t we have enough in our own lives to concentrate on without nitpicking everyone else’s? http://bit.ly/vintagewk4″ quote=”Don’t we have enough in our own lives to concentrate on without nitpicking everyone else’s?”] They eat Pop Tarts and you eat whole grain mash. Their family does time-outs and you just want time out from their unruly children. They read the KJV, and you like the ESV. Video games fill their family evenings while you and your family enjoy Dutch Blitz.
Really? That’s worth taking your eyes off Jesus for?
You know, we do the reverse as well. The comparison game works both ways. We can run the race in our superior arrogance or with our shoes untied and our heads hanging to our knees in shame. He has a personal trainer, while we can’t train our person to get up in time. Our shoes are the wrong brand. We didn’t dedicate as many training hours, and really? Tap water? Why do we even try? Smart Water, people! it’s the only way to run! Jane the Running Guru said so!
From the mom who barely manages to get breakfast on the table and then beats herself up because she didn’t cook a whole-foods, gourmet meal that her darlings ate while she read the hymn of the day to them, to the mom who ignored flash card review for a tickle fest on the bed–the guilt piles on. Sally Supermom homeschools, runs her own business, and manages to take fabulous trips with her kids. Next door, Nellie Never-good-enough wonders why she even tries.
Kara the Kept Wife cooks gourmet meals and runs a Bible study for women in prison, and her neighbor Working Wanda, who would give ANYTHING to quit working, feels like a failure when she has to say no to bringing a meal to a shut-in who just got home from the hospital.
STOP THE MADNESS!
Let’s just run our own race, okay? The one Jesus gave us. What our neighbor does is only beneficial to us if helps us know how to encourage him. Once we focus on someone else’s walk, we end up with our nose out of joint–one way or another. It’s so easy to get so caught up in trying to do all the things. And too often we assume that if you can do all the things you really want to that anyone can. It’s a lie. Please. PLEASE. Kill the lie.