On Sunday at church we sang a familiar song. Sometimes, if I’m distracted, familiar songs can lose significance because I sing the words without thinking about their meaning. This time, however, I felt the meaning of the words so strongly distraction had no chance. The song was speaking about our spiritual journeys, but I also drew a parallel to motherhood (as I usually do). Brooke Fraser’s Lord of Lords was the song.
“Let not the things of this world ever sway me, I’ll run ’til I finish the race.”
I didn’t come away from that moment believing everything here on earth is bad. How could I? I don’t think material things are evil. I don’t think having nice clothes makes you superficial. I don’t care how nice your neighborhood is. Or how bad it is. Or how often you go on vacation. Or don’t go on vacation. I care about the eternal things. The things below the surface.
What do I mean by race?
Your race is your life. It’s your life’s purpose, your calling, the cause you can’t quit thinking about or a vision or dream for the future. We all have different paths to our finish line. Sometimes our paths will cross for a stretch and – similar to running with a partner – we help keep each other motivated. Some stretches we’ll find ourselves alone. Wherever you are in your race, take heart.
1. Life’s a marathon.
Life is a marathon. Every one of us are running our own race. I will admit to being melodramatic, but I often find myself asking God why it seems that others seem to be running nice little comfortable 5k’s while I appear to be training for a marathon.
Oh, almost over….NO… that’s not the finish line. Another twenty miles of this horrible stretch of the race… and I’m not talking about motherhood here.
While it feels like the day-to-day needs of small children consume our every waking minute (and they honestly do at times), it’s the eternal seeds we are sowing that matter most. When the days get hard, remember that motherhood is one very effective path to building endurance. And we need endurance because there is no finishing a marathon if we are not committed.
2. Marathons hurt.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard about this, but the physical aftermath of running a marathon can get ugly. From blisters, black toenails, stress fractures and shin splints to pulled muscles, heel spurs, diarrhea, nausea and fatigue. And that’s the basic stuff. The people who get injured aren’t just the out of shape either. Races require you to push yourself to the finish line.
Sometimes, life hurts. Life can sway us. It can cause us to put away our running shoes and go home. We don’t want to follow God’s will or we don’t want to put in the hard work it will take to get out of our comfort zones. If you go into a marathon thinking “I’m just gonna…oh I don’t know… run 26 miles or so then go get a cheeseburger” you are not gonna make it. Not even close.
We must go into knowing it will be hard, knowing we must push ourselves, knowing that we are running for a purpose and for a goal. To finish. When we get injured, need a rest, or can’t find the motivation to go on, there’s only one way to keep going. One foot in the front of the other.
3. Keep your eye on the prize.
Our races may all be different, but many of us have our eye on the same prize. To live the life God has called us to live. To know that our behavior pleases God. To do the things that only we can do. Part of our race is to raise our children to know the Lord. Ultimately they decide their own path, but our role is crucial.
When times get tough, keep your eye on the prize. If you are a starter finisher you now how great it feels to cross that finish line. If you aren’t a starter finisher, all the more reason to keep your eye on the prize. When we are nearing our wall or have forgotten why we’re running in the first place, the prize will put it into perspective.
4. Ignore the hecklers.
We are bound to run into people who don’t like how we are running our race. We run funny. Our clothes don’t match. Our shoes don’t properly support our arches. We’re going too fast or too slow or we have bad technique. We’re not raising our children right. We should stay at home or go to work or whatever else. To run your race you need to tune out the hecklers. Better yet, you need to learn to let the things they say roll off you. You aren’t running the race to please the bystanders. You’re running your race to please God.
However, there will be times when trusted friends tell us we’re veering off course or that our current technique may cause us harm. If you have friends who are willing to tell you in love that you are wrong, you are a lucky duck. Some of my most “ah-ha” moments have been when others had the wisdom to disagree with me. A trusted friend, however, is not a heckler, and random hecklers shouldn’t be treated as trusted friends.
5. Focus on the encouragers.
God doesn’t always do things how we planned. The people you feel should encourage you are questioning your every move. No one understands which direction you are running or for what purpose. Still, in my life there’s always been unexpected people at random curves in the road saying I’m doing a good job. I’m headed in the right direction. That they see how hard I’m running even though I look like I’m about to die and feel even worse.
These are the people who see past the brand of your running gear and your tennis shoes. These people are brave enough to say “tell me how you really feel?” and they aren’t scared to hear the answer. God will send these people in your life – surprising people – when you need them most. Don’t turn them away because they don’t look how you thought they would.
6. A rest is not a resignation.
Motherhood can be all consuming. I often feel like I never leave the house. I used to be involved in many things, do lots outside the home, and feel like an involved person. I was voted Most Involved in School Activities my senior year. Oh that’s right. Always looking for something to do. I think that’s why this season of life is tricky for me. It seems like I’ve stopped running my race.
When I zoom out I know I’m running my race with more perseverance than ever. This particular leg of my race requires total concentration. It’s exhausting. There is little time to pause and talk to spectators. Maybe it’s like running a steep downhill stretch. If you try to stop you’ll probably end up rolling down the hill anyway. Whether running or rolling, I’m headed somewhere and headed there fast.
If you’ve made a life change, gone on furlough, stepped down from leadership or responsibility, or decided to take a purposeful selah, that’s not quitting. That’s resting. When you’re running a marathon, it’s okay to catch your breath. In fact, if you run when your body needs to stop then you aren’t likely to finish. If you feel like you aren’t doing anything “important” and think you’re only good for wiping butts or paying bills, you’re wrong.
Sometimes we have no clue where we are running to, but that’s okay. Sometimes we just need to keep running because we started running. Just because you can’t see the prize at every turn doesn’t mean it’s not there.
How do you run and not grow weary?