I was on the track team when I was younger, a sprinter to be more specific. I started running at a pretty young age. In third grade I started running with the fourth grade team. Organized sports in our state used to begin in fourth grade. That later changed and now there are no organized sports in the school system until middle school. You’ll see here a picture of me in those early days at the state Junior Olympics meet. I’m the one on the far right with the sprinter’s thighs.
I was always fast, even at a young age setting a state record for the 100. But I never developed the skills to be a long distance runner. Being one leg on a relay team was the closest I ever got to taking things the distance. One particular year, one of my teammates had to drop out of the 440 just minutes before the race. My coach wanted our team represented so he asked me to fill in. Please remember, I was used to running the 50, 70, and 100. The 440 seemed like a marathon to me. I was willing to do my part, after all how bad could it be? Well, there is this little skill called “pacing yourself” that you must know how to employ if you are going to be a long distance runner. It was a skill that I did not know I needed and sure didn’t possess, but I was fast, and my self-confidence was cocky enough to think I could just bolt around the track and be fine. I was used to winning. Why would this be any different? I will never forget the feeling I had as I rounded the last bend of the track. I was in fourth place out of four runners and thinking to myself, “I am running as fast as I absolutely can, and I cannot close this gap.” It was mind boggling to me that I could not make my legs go any faster. Had I known about pacing, I probably could have given a more respectable showing, but I was a sprinter, so from the moment I rocketed out of the starting blocks; I was running as fast as I could and the gas just plain ran out! I didn't quit, but I did outrun myself.
As I look back to my days as a sprinter, and I look at my life today,I realize that I am still a sprinter. The difference now is that I am sprinting through life and every single activity that I participate in. As a result, I find I’m pooped before I get to the finish line of everything I start. I’m a starter, not a finisher, and that has to change. Every task I undertake begins with gusto. I am excited, challenged, and motivated to give it all I’ve got, and I can’t wait to see the results . . . but I often don’t wait to see the results. When the newness wears off and the challenge begins to lessen, my motivation begins to wane and I lose all interest. Do you know how many half read books I have sitting on my shelf, or partially written ones for that matter? Hobbies come and go, diets begin and end, habits are new for a day or two and then they are old again. I have found that I can finish what I have to, but not what I need to when given a choice. I suppose this is a character flaw and that is why it bothers me so. I’m troubled by my "accelerate and brake" mentality because the beautiful scenery in life doesn’t happen when the vehicle starts or stops, it happens on the road in between. Too often I find myself saying, “Are we there yet?” Yes, most of life and growth happens in the drudgery, and if I am always looking for a way out of the drudgery if even for a moment, how much of life must I be missing? I’ve got to pace myself through this journey and expect the dry days to come knowing that I won’t die of thirst in the process. And while I think of the hunger that might come when a challenge is no longer a challenge, God reminds me that I’ve been using the wrong fuel. He gives me this to chew on:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Food for my spiritual life applies to my daily life. After all, the two are connected. So I begin the fight to win the race, by pacing myself according to God’s word. I’m taking on the tasks he has for me and only the tasks he has for me. I will not be ruled by emotions, whether excitement or boredom. I am in strict training; running with purpose, and enslaving my body. I don't pretend to think these new grooves will be easy to cut.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
I have hard work ahead of me. Some of these habits are years old, and everyone says you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I find it easy to see all of the impossibilites, but any good runner knows you should never look over your shoulder, or to the right, or to the left; but keep your eyes on that ribbon draped across the finish line. When you get there, push your chest forward and don't slow down until the ribbon is broken. That's the only way to finish strong because those old demons are right there breathing down your neck.
I find myself at a crossroads and this post is a result of that. I've chosen the way I am to go, or maybe it chose me. I'm now a distance runner in training. I have to be because my way hasn't been working. I'm scared to death because I can't see beyond the first 100 yards, but the time is now. I must learn to be a strong finisher if I am to accomplish what God has for me to do. He's my coach and he's asked me to step into this race and run it in a way that I have never known. Which unfinished project should I start with? Well, that's my first question for Coach. He is going to have to run with me, pace me all the way around the track, and clear to the finish line because I cannot do this in my own wisdom. I know the endurance I need will be found in the power of his word, the only training manual I will ever need.
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth . . . so shall my word be which goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire.
I hope if you have not read this post before that you will find it helpful in your own life. This is a re-post of a piece I published two years ago. I came across it today as I was cleaning up things in my blog. It is timely for me today as I reflect on how far I've come and how far I've yet to go. I've picked up an "unfinished" commission recently and all though I am not satisfied with the progress I've made since I posted this the first time, I am still on the track and pushing towards that final ribbon. My God is slow to anger and abounding in love. So thankful for that.