However, I recently decided to try again. I found a program that promised my being able to run for 21 minutes straight by the end of it – quite the lofty goal for someone like me. I’m currently about halfway through the training, and while I’m not yet to 21 minutes, I have made significant personal progress.
When I first started out, I was in the middle of a level that called for running one minute, walking two minutes, repeating seven times. I had my stopwatch set and was doing pretty well. However, during one of the walking breaks, I happened upon three children who were out and about, enjoying popsicles, fascinated by an airplane overhead. Even though I was catching my breath and smelled far from fantastic, the group of kids started walking with me. They asked if I saw the plane, if I liked popsicles, what my favorite flavor was, and if I could please help one girl open hers. Before I knew it, I was caught up in the conversation and my two-minute walking break passed by.
Time was up. If sticking to the program was what I needed to do, I needed to run. But I kept walking. The conversation topic switched to ladybugs and I held a popsicle while one child tried to do a cartwheel in the grass. I glanced at my watch. Five minutes had passed. My Type A personality was not pleased. I was way off-track. But when I finally did start running again, I considered that maybe I wasn’t off-track after all.
Throughout the New Testament, our faith is often compared to running a race. We are to run with endurance (Hebrews 12), pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3), running with clear aim (1 Corinthians 9). A part of me struggles with this metaphor because I struggle to be a runner, but I get it. Our faith is not easy. It requires sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance. We are called to run the race well.
But what if running the race well isn’t about how fast we can finish it?
What if it isn’t about achieving our own personal best?
What if it really isn’t about us at all?
When I was running that day, I was tempted to be regimented. I was tempted to keep perfect time with my stopwatch, while completely passing those children by and refusing to engage them – making it all about me. My time. My schedule. My achievement. I would have finished faster, but I would have been running in vain.
Faith is often similar. It is easy to get caught up in my call, my plan, what God is doing in my life - while my faith really isn't all about me anyway. Investing in our personal faith is certainly vital and important, but it shouldn't stop there. If we stop there, we’re settling. If we stop there, it’s all in vain.
When we’re running the faith race, it’s easy to overlook and pass by the needs around us. It’s easy to think we don’t have time for certain things because we’re hyper-focused on the race God called us to. But when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and He is our prize, we know finishing well isn’t the point. The point is running well. And ironically, running the faith race well often means stopping along the way.
It’s noticing the unnoticed.
It’s bringing the outsider in.
It’s taking the time to get to know someone we wouldn’t normally associate with.
It’s being light in the dark.
It’s inviting others to join the race.
It’s following Christ’s example.
James writes that faith without works is dead (James 2). In the same way, a runner solely concerned with the finish line runs the race in vain. Let’s run the good race, my friends. But let’s choose to run the race well.