When I was in High School, I ran track. Specifically, I ran the 400 meter dash; one full lap around. It was absolutely my favorite thing to do. And, I loved everything about it. I loved that it required persistence and patience. You couldn't exert all your energy at once. You had to both give everything you had, but keep something too. You had to have the strength to finish both strong, and fast. I also loved that it made me feel like I had to throw up when I was done. I know, that seems odd. But, it was a physical reflection of my emotional state; I had given everything for the race. Our bodies crave that; to empty out so that we can be filled up again.
I loved this race because it consistently reminded me that, for the most part, it didn't really matter what place I was until the very last moment. There could be a runner in front of me, or beside me, or even behind me- but their placement, or mine, wasn't indicative of our actual status. Not until the finish line. Platform and placement doesn't mean we're any closer to the Throne, after all.
Typically, a 400 meter dash isn't until the end of a meet. The sun has set and it's gotten cold; your legs begin to go numb while you wait for them to call you to the starting line. The stadium lights are turned on, but only to show the thinning crowd. The irony isn't lost on me that true to life, most people would rather stick around for instant victory rather than slow success. We like the viral, not the abiding.
On the second meter of the race, it's just the runners. No one is ever on that side of the field. The lights blare down on you and it's quiet. You can only hear the quick and methodical swing of your arms, the steady cadence of your breath and your feet hitting the pavement.
One foot after the other.
Breathing in and out.
Arms; swish, swish, swish.
I have that feeling memorized.
For when the race isn't about the crowd, but about the purpose. For when every physical, emotional, and spiritual aspect of yourself is focused on one thing. For when there isn't any room to overthink, or hesitate, or look for more. You just move.
You just use what the good Lord gave you.
I long for this feeling. I long for it, because honestly, lately it's been missing in my life. And I think, probably in many others too.
That's all I see and hear these days from friends, and strangers on the internet; a longing for more. We want more in our relationships, from our passions, and from ourselves. We want more out of the race we're running.
I feel like maybe, what I'm about to say will seem the opposite of what every other Christian author, writer, blogger and even your therapist is telling you. Because all I hear these days is along the lines of, "Find your calling!" and "What's your purpose?" or "How can your Enneagram or Briggs Meyer type help you understand you?"
We're searching, yes?
We want to empty ourselves out. We want to feel like we've left it all here; done all we could to run the race set before us.
But, even when we have Jesus, we forget. We forget that with Him, the more is already here; it's already now. Our purpose has been set before us and in us; that's the more we're really seeking.
We can't waste time wishing for another race to run, or to be another kind of runner, or for the next race to come. Because, that's not real. We have to recognize that; This is it. This is what we have. This is who we are.
There isn't going to be another race; or another us.
I'm tired of thinking I'm winning if there's no one in front of me. I'm tired of being so preoccupied of whose next to me that I stumble and fall; that I stagger out of line and onto the field. I'm tired of thinking that my reward somehow looks different than yours. It doesn't. We all get the same prize. I'm tired of looking for improvements instead of stretching and using what I already have. I'm tired of feeling stuck in calling instead of moving in freedom. I'm tired of trying to understand myself, instead of seeking to understand God.
Mostly, I'm tired of looking for purpose when it's already been given to me.
I'm worried that without realizing it; we've made the race about the race and not about the finish line. It's easy to get stuck in the temporal instead of seeking the eternal. And, it's easy to search for the roar of a crowd then revel in an audience of one.
What's more comfortable? Thinking about how to run the race? Or, actually doing it?
We've over-complicated our assignments as Believers.
We want to figure out how to move or how those moves look best on us, when that's all we have to do; just move. It's ingrained in us. We don't have to think about breathing, it just comes naturally to us. It's the same with purpose. God's implanted it in us, we just have to lean into it.
And while there's nothing wrong with learning more about ourselves, I'm worried we're losing sight of the more we've already been given; the Jesus we've been given. I'm worried that we're overcome with how we're going to get to the finish line instead of just moving in God's grace there. I'm worried that in focusing on ourselves, on our race; we've lost sight of Him.
The purpose of our lives isn't in who we are, or how we understand ourselves to be, or where we are at in our race; or whose team we are on. Our purpose is in Him. And because He is in us; we don't have to look any further on how to run our race, or to where we should be headed. No personality test, or self-help book, or career quiz can point us in this direction. He's already told us what to do. We just have to move.
And that should be enough; more than enough.
IN THE WORD
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. || Philippians 3:14
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... || Hebrews 12:1
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. || 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. || Romans 9:16