Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
A few weeks ago, as I approached my birthday, I found myself reflecting on my journey as both a woman and believer. I looked around at people my age, or those close to me and I considered where they were at my age, and I started summing up my accomplishments. I reminisced on previous victories, and sought to identify the lessons learned from each painful failure.
Honestly, at one point, I could hardly breathe: overwhelmed by the weight of my unaccomplished dreams, smothered by grandiose expectations and the shrinking feeling that I was falling short in life, lagging behind the pack. In the game of life, I was losing.
I thought of my childhood aspirations, the plans I dreamed up in high-school, and the perfectly mapped out life I planned in college. I couldn’t help but think that the idealistic girl who made those plans would be disappointed in me. What would she think of me, what would she say when she found me living at home, not married, not making millions or living her “best life” for the world to see? She would shudder, I supposed.
Despondent, I thought about what I would say to her, and how I would explain what happened; why my life isn’t everything she thought it would be. Then it dawned on me. I would tell that idealistic child that there were many challenges ahead. I would tell her that the map toward success she so carefully crafted, left no room for the hills of betrayal and abandonment, or the storms of tragedy and grief. She had no inkling of the difficulties she would encounter or the way God would use them to make her grow. I would tell her, that she was resilient. That after watching a project she worked tirelessly on for 2 years crumble before her, that she would watch it burn, grieve it and then build it again. I would tell her that after having her life turned upside down by the sudden deaths of loved ones, that she would find peace and a deeper trust in God. I would tell her that after all those years of struggling with her self-esteem and anxiety in secret, that she would truly learn to love herself and help others to do the same.
I would tell her how she learned to roll with the punches. How she learned the value of being content, but not complacent. I would talk about the delicate balance of pursuing her goals, but trusting God with her future, knowing that He crafted every moment of her life to prepare her for opportunities she never even imagined. I would show her how her view of success was so tainted, compared with what God sees as true success; it was so small.
This race, called life, is a marathon, not a sprint. Each of us is running a path created specifically for us. Comparing your progress to others’ is a terrible measure of achievement because you are going somewhere completely different because you are someone, completely different.
When we consider what makes a champion in God’s eyes, qualities like endurance, and faithfulness, are preferred over power and prestige for attaining the prize He desires for us. When we keep checking the stop clock we can get discouraged, but take heart as long as we continue putting one foot in front of the other, running toward Christ, we are always, always winning.