At our kids’ recent cross country meet, I was stationed in the middle of a hill about a quarter of a mile from the finish. The hill’s location was unfortunate. It was a tough course. Every runner, regardless of pace, had to work hard to conquer it and each had his or her own unique look of determination laced with struggle – or struggle laced with determination, depending on how it was going.
As I talked with a friend after the meet, he mentioned how amazed he was by the dedication of the runners who finish in the back of the pack, some of them week after week. I thought about how we are quick to turn to the speediest finishers for inspiration and advice. And I thought about how much we miss when we do.
… let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1
Some runners are given a gift of natural speed and some are not. I don’t know why. Much hard work is necessary to develop and improve speed, but each person has unique gifts and his or her own natural pace.
We tell our cross country runners to push themselves to improve their own times and efforts and not get lost in how they place. That is hard to do because winning is fun. It just is. And it is something to celebrate. Finishing near the back of the pack is hard. And there are runners who may never win a race. So far, I am one of them.
But we were made for much more than achieving a certain place in a race.
Our lives are of great value – not because of our accomplishments or successes – but simply because God made us. And we cannot let our failures – or our successes – dominate or define us. What is of great worth is how we choose to respond to the race set before us, on and off the running path.
Just as I have no answers for why some of us are naturally faster than others, I have no answers for why some of us encounter difficult struggles on the path of life while others carry a lighter load. Each of us has our own race to run, and we are called to persevere in that race.
Showing up at the starting line is a response of hope. Embracing the unique gifts, experiences and circumstances we take with us on the course is a response of grace. Persevering through the hills and struggles is a courageous response. Giving God thanks and glory at the finish – regardless of our place – is a humble response. And seeking to improve and go to the next starting line is a virtuous response.
When we run the race that has been set before us and let hope and faith in God guide us, we can conquer all things and finish strong. And we will win.