Last Saturday I ran in a 5K race. I am not going to lie; it was not my most favorite experience. I am not one who finds joy in running. Walking on the other hand, I love. As I was nearing the finish line – or so I thought – I could see runners far ahead in the distance. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me? I still have at least that far to go?” So I did what any non-lover of running would do, I stopped running and started walking.
For the majority of the 5K, I could only see a short distance in front of me. This allowed me to focus on running the portion of the course I could see. The moment I got a greater glimpse of just how far the finish line was, I felt overwhelmed and tired. What’s interesting is my sudden onset of weariness didn’t come because the course became more rigorous but because my perspective changed.
I learned two lessons this day:
1. Sometimes only seeing one step ahead is a blessing from God.
2. It’s okay to walk.
Lesson 1: Sometimes only seeing one step ahead is a blessing from God.
We all have metaphorical finish lines we want to cross in life. These finish lines can include finding a job, finding a spouse, having children, buying a car or house, getting out of debt, overcoming a health challenge, developing a talent, etc. For me right now, finding someone to spend my life (and forever) with is a metaphorical finish line I desire to cross. However, I don’t know of a surety when that will happen – it could be in six months or it could be in six years. I’ve wanted to get married since I was 20, and if I had known at that time that seven years later I’d still be single, these last seven years would have been rough. Instead of finding fulfillment and satisfaction in graduating from college, serving a church mission, growing in a career, and finding peace in a myriad of other opportunities that have been mine, I would have felt weighed down with weariness knowing the years I would have to pass through before crossing this metaphorical finish line. While sometimes not knowing the future can severely test our faith, I’ve learned that in some instances this lack of knowledge actually serves as a great blessing. Seeing only a short distance ahead allows us to focus on the present moment and not become overwhelmed by the distance we still must travel.
Lesson 2: It’s okay to walk.
At first I felt guilty for walking. But then I realized it didn’t matter if my race time was a few minutes longer than it would have otherwise been. It’s my race. It didn’t matter if other runners passed me along the way. They weren’t running my race, only I was. The same is true with each person’s life path. We can’t look at others' lives and compare ourselves to them. Sometimes when life trials weigh us down, it’s okay to walk (and sometimes it’s absolutely requisite). We should never feel guilty for slowing down. Greater blessings can sometimes come when we slow down. For instance, when I made the decision to stop running and start walking, I began to notice more fully the beautiful fall leaves on the trees. Only through slowing down was I able to fully appreciate my surroundings. I recognize that some runners are talented enough to run and appreciate the view at the same time, but I am just not one of them and that’s okay. Again, we have different life paths – including different strengths and weaknesses.
What matters most is that we finish the race. We can’t give up when we feel overwhelmed by the distance yet to travel, and we can’t allow discouragement to impede our ability to enjoy our journey as we watch others appear to effortlessly achieve milestones we so desperately desire to achieve.
I, like you, am still running the race. Our finish lines may be different at the moment, and the distance we have yet to travel may vary greatly, but what we both need is to trust in God, keep moving forward, and believe we will cross the finish line. There will be many finish lines to cross in life. I don't think there will ever come a moment in this life when we have no more finish lines to cross. To close, I want to share the closing line from my favorite hymn that gives me the courage to seek to accept with gratitude and peace the metaphorical race(s) that God has asked me to participate in: “And silently we pray for courage to accept Thy will, to listen, and obey. We love Thee, Lord. Our hearts are full. We’ll walk Thy chosen way.”
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