Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB).
I am what some might call a “football mom.” I have four boys who play the sport, and although it doesn’t define our lives, I am around it a lot. I get a front row seat to the amount of physical training that goes into it.
If you ever watch a team of ten year olds running sprints, you will notice one thing: most of them look around to see how they compare to the others as they run.
Most don’t try to win. They merely try to not finish last, and they do just enough to meet their mediocre goal. They run so as to look “reasonable” in their efforts and finish “respectably” as compared to the others. Their primary goal in running is to not be humiliated when compared to the other runners.
Those that win do it differently.
They focus all their energy forward, keeping their eyes on the finish line. They don’t care what others around them are doing. They simply strive to go as hard and as fast as they can, believing that if they do, they will win.
Looking back, there was a freeing moment in my family’s Christian “race.” It was the moment when my husband and I, by God’s grace, unshackled ourselves from what is considered a “reasonable” standard of obedience and love for Christ. We said “Let’s trust Christ for our strength and just see how fast and how hard we can run for Him.”
We decided to stop looking from side to side at what other Christians were doing, and to start focusing our energy on running the particular race He has marked out for us with all the gusto we could muster. Although all Christians are running toward glory, the Lord has marked out a different race course for each of us. That’s why it is foolish to look sideways and compare our own pace to that of our sisters in Christ, for we are each following a different path to the ultimate finish line.
We chose a new motto for our family, taken from David’s statement to Michal when she mocked him and despised him in her heart for dancing and celebrating before the Lord. Although Michal tried to shame him for showing “over-the-top” devotion to God, David was not ashamed.
He told her, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:22, NIV).
To live by the motto “I will become even more undignified than this” is to choose NOT to run with the pack. It is scary. It can be lonely. It can seem ridiculous….even in our own eyes. Those ten-year-old football players ran only hard enough to avoid humiliation. Our faithful running almost seems to ensure it, at least in the world’s eyes.
But it is also exhilarating.
What does the Lord have for us, and for our family? Let’s run as hard as we can, fixing our eyes on our heavenly prize, and find out.
In this year’s Olympics, fifteen year old Katie Ledecky won a gold medal in the 800 meter freestyle swim, breaking Janet Evans American record from 1989. Ledecky seemed to come out of nowhere to claim a spot on the team, qualifying for just one race. She was the youngest swimmer on America’s team, and no one placed much stock in her. But she ended up beating out all the favorites using what the commentators thought was an impossible strategy: she pushed the pace early, and she pushed it hard.
The commentators were certain that the favorites would still win. They just knew Katie was going to burn out. She had pushed too hard, too soon, they claimed. But Katie knew it was her one race for glory. Everyone else seemed to think the fifteen-year-old should be satisfied just to be at the Olympics, but Katie actually wanted to win.
And win she did. By a huge margin! The “smart,” experienced racers were so far behind by the end, that they never even got close to her. Was she tired? Certainly. But there would be time enough to rest later.
There are those who say that the Christian life is a marathon, so we need to pace ourselves accordingly. They tell us to jog along at a “reasonable” pace, and assure us that there will be time for truly radical Christian living later. They warn that we will burn out if we push the pace too hard, too soon.
What many fail to recognize, dear sisters, is the true brevity of this race. We will reach the finish line before we know it. Even if God should grant us 90 years, our life is just a breath in light of eternity.
This is our final; our “career-ender.” It is the one chance we have to show—to men, to the angels, and to the demons—exactly who we are because of what Christ has done for us, and in us. Our every stride extols His greatness. It’s all to His glory.
Let’s push the pace—the earlier and harder, the better —and let us raise our children with this understanding as well.
In all these things we can trust that our Lord will give us the strength run hard until we cross the finish line. Then, and only then, can we truly rest.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us….consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12: 1,3, NASB).
*First published on Visionary Womanhood