Been thinking about this for a while and I think it’s time to write it. Let’s start with my “inspiration.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12: 1-2
I didn’t do a lot of running in school. For one thing, I went to small, private schools that just didn’t have elaborate P.E. programs–particularly not competitive sports. Additionally, I was the kid who passed out after .10 mile. Yeah. That’s not a joke by the way. Just sayin’. However, my brother ran. I remember my parents telling the story about my shrimpy brother Berechyn running in a track meet. The people all around Mom and Dad were talking about the runners. Once the gun was fired, most of the comments revolved around how Bear just kept a steady pace behind the pack. They said things like “kid can’t keep up” and “just too little to be in this group” and similar observations. Then he kicked it up a notch. He passed the first kid, then the second. Runner after runner got a taste of his tailwind as he flew past and finished first. The comments changed to things like, “Look at the calves on that kid!” By the way, he got those calves because my dad used to take the garbage can lids with him on his way to work and dump them a mile or two away from the house. The boys had to wake up and run in opposite directions (because for a while they were taking turns sleeping in and one of them running… snort) to get those lids before school started. For the record, I obviously got different genes.
But… one thing I learned from Bear was that when you’re racing, you don’t look behind you. You don’t look from side to side. It will slow you down. You look straight ahead, at the finish line and you RUN. You keep your “eye on the prize” as they say. I think this is where that saying came from– Hebrews 12:1-2.
But as Christians, do we do that? Do we run “our race” (or as we more sedentary folk call it, our “Christian walk”) focused on Jesus? Or, do we let our eyes wander to see how well our brethren are doing in their race? Are we concerned with keeping our eyes on Jesus or are we obsessed with the log in our brother’s eye that is holding HIM back? Is that why we keep stumbling and falling? Is it because, like Peter, we take our eyes off Jesus and the reality around us knocks us down?
Look, I know it’s not a perfect analogy. We need to be there to help one another. I would hope that winning a race would not be so important to me that I would not stop to help someone in it that truly needed ME to be the one to stop. I just think that sometimes we try to be “all things to all men, all at once, all the time, all by ourselves” as Richard Swenson of the book Margin likes to put it. In a race, there are those who are assigned the task of helping the fallen. That might mean it’s you. It might not. But is your task to critique the running style of your comrades? Is your task to focus on where they could improve their technique? Is your task to obsess over the flaws of others and glory in your superior style? If they ask for pointers on how to imitate yours, do you get upset when they discover it doesn’t work for them? Maybe their legs are shorter, maybe they don’t have the type of endurance you have, or maybe they just haven’t built up the muscle to run the same race yet. Maybe they need to do sprints for now or maybe you’re the sprinter and they are the marathoners who look like they’re not getting anywhere, but at the end of the road, you both have won your prizes.
It just feels like there’s a lot of focus on critiquing the race that our brethren are running and not enough focus on staying our own course. Sounds scarily familiar. Starts with a Ph… Phoenician? Philippian? Pharisee? Eeek… yeah. that one.
Don’t we have enough in our own lives to concentrate on without nitpicking everyone else’s? They eat Pop Tarts and you eat whole grain mash. They do time outs and you just want time out from their unruly children. They read the KJV and you like the ESV. They play video games and you play Dutch Blitz.
Really? That’s worth taking your eyes off Jesus for?