By Kathy Lay
This Week's Verse: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. (II Timothy 4:7—NLT)
You know that look people get when they want you to do something? That's the look my husband had when he approached me with this: “I think we should do the Deuces Wild Duathalon. It’ll be fun, something we can do together, just you and me.”
I looked doubtfully at his cute face—I mean how could I turn that down? But, more realistically, how could I possibly run a duathalon? Me, okay? Someone who hasn’t run more than the length of the driveway at any one time since my high school track days.
“Plus, it will set a great example for the kids.” He had a point there.
“And your running would be broken up: two miles at the beginning, then I ride my bike 20 miles, which would give you close to an hour to rest, then you run two more. C'mon, it'll be fun.”
Okay, with two months to prepare, I could surely run two, two-mile stretches. Couldn’t I?
And so it began. This wish from my husband, and that persuasive style of his, started a training period for me. I began to run every-other day, starting the two-mile distance, but stopping whenever I felt I needed to at first. The very first day out, I vowed to jog to one telephone pole, walk to the next, jog to the next, etc. for the whole two miles. Girls, I thought I was going to die! I was so discouraged because, wow. I had no idea I was THAT out of shape. Major wake-up call.
But I didn't give up and you know what? The next time I went out, I was able to take two poles at a time and dramatically reduce the walking. Then two weeks into the program marked my first non-stop two miles! (Even if it WAS slow!)
I prayed during my runs... “Lord, please let my body hold out…thank you for that beautiful horse neighing as he watches me go by...thanks for the gorgeous weather...please let this whole deal serve as a positive example to the kids…please use it to strengthen my relationship with Shane…please be glorified in this.” I just enjoyed the God-time, even though I really wasn't having any major revelations or anything.
That was, until race day.
I am competitive by nature and I'd told Shane all along I didn't want him to be disappointed. I guess I transferred my competitiveness to him, assuming he was playing to win. He assured me throughout training that finishing was all that mattered. It was “just for fun.”
But as the entire pack of runners took off at the start, I made a huge rookie mistake: instead of pacing myself, competitiveness overcame me and I actually tried to keep up with the big dogs for a little bit. Things were not going well as I became extremely out of breath not even a quarter mile into the race. And I was still behind everyone except a mom with her young son. Not lookin' good. At all.
That leg of the event was nothing short of torture. My lungs were stinging, my mouth, throat, and even ears (weird feeling!) were completely dry as I gasped continually. I was reduced to walking fast a few times just to get a decent breath. As I finally tagged Shane so he could start his leg, I felt utterly defeated: “I can NOT do any more. I got Shane off to a late start, I walked for Pete's sake, and just about killed myself for what—to be in stinky-next-to-last place! There's no way I can continue in this race.”
Ever been there before in your life? You feel you just can't go on another minute, let alone another day? You're washed up, dried out, and fearful or maybe even hopeless?
Girlfriend, that's when grace and mercy kick in.
Angie Lindley was Jesus to me as she met me at the line. She encouraged me, walked me around, actually helped me peel off my outer shirt because physically, I just couldn't, and assured me the next leg would go much better after resting. Of course I didn't believe her at that moment because I felt like, well you know, puking and all, but she was amazing. :-)
Sure enough, a little less than an hour later when my hubby zipped back in to tag me for the last leg, I felt better. For one thing, I was starting alone this time—no pack to set an unrealistic pace. I was working at a speed that was optimal for ME, not someone else. It also didn't hurt that I was no longer near the rear because Shane had done a tremendous job on the bike. I was determined to enjoy this part. As I met other runners coming in, they'd holler “Good job” or “Way to go” (I didn't know about this runners' etiquette!) so I started doing it back. As I reached the turnaround, I knew that I'd be meeting others who were behind me, so I made a special effort to encourage them as well (even knowing several of them would soon be passing me!). I was actually having fun with this!
Then God hit me with the lesson I'm sure he'd planned from the beginning: See Kath? When your focus is on how you're doing compared to everyone else, it leads to disappointment and frustration... But when your focus is attuned to my plan for you, there's fulfillment and satisfaction in that because you're right where I want you. Stop looking at everyone else and just run the race I have marked out for you (Heb. 12:1-2) and no one else. You're not supposed to be with the big dogs yet.
Amen, Lord, what freedom in that! Thank you for a lesson I will ALWAYS remember because I didn't quit.
And as God so often does when we've internalized more of Him, he threw in an extra blessing--Shane and I received medals! We came in first in our class! (Okay, we were the only ones in our class, but hey, we'll take it!) And the kids are very impressed by medals. ;-)
(By the way, for those of you who know Heather Kirkwood, give that sister some major props! She did the whole thing, running AND biking, by herself and came in under two hours! She won the medal in her class (and she was not the only one in her class!). Way to go Heather!)
Lord, how we thank you that you have a special plan that is beautiful in its uniqueness for each one of us. Keep our eyes on the course you have marked out for us as we encourage others along the way on their own courses. Keep us continually focused on you and whatever prize you have for each of us as we finish our respective races. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Application: How are you doing in your race? Are you struggling for each breath and step or enjoying the process? Pray that God shows you where you need to be to ensure you're not trying to run someone else's race.
[Things the Lord hates] haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. (NLT)
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. (NIV)
You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. (NLT)