All three of my kids run. The oldest runs because he is fast. Like Lightning McQueen, he literally believes “I.am.Speed.” The middle guy is currently in a “work smarter, not harder” phase. He runs because we make him. “Hurry up! Catch up! We’re going to be late!” The youngest? She runs…to avoid diapers. To sneak through closing doors. To rob other people of their lunches. She runs to show us who’s boss. Three runners.
It was their first time on a track. Each child’s first race. Thanks to participation awards, my kids would each go home with a medal (ironically made not of medal, but of silicone); all they had to do was finish their respective races.
Easier said than done.
Each kid had their own ideas. Jack, 7, figured his sheer speed would keep him at the head of the pack for 400 meters. Trevor, 4, assumed boxing out the other 4, 5 and 6 year olds at the starting line would give him a necessary edge. Sydney, 21 months, literally just had no idea what was going on.
Each of them had a race to run. A race, honestly, they did not sign up for. They were appointed to run these races (you’re welcome, kids!). Each of them had a path to go. Each had a different experience. Each was capable of running the race set out for them. Finishing would not be easy and the paths were somewhat unpredictable.
My life is full of unfamiliar tracks and frustratingly familiar courses. For me, this has been a week of tracks and races, courses and paths.
Vulnerability and conflict in relationships new and old. A chance to write. Upcoming transition, goodbyes and adjustments. Uncertainty. Engaging in my own story.
Some of my races. Some of my paths.
Each of the kids ran a race that day much like one of my own.
Like Sydney, sometimes the path just makes no sense at all.
I have to take it one very small baby step at a time.
I recognize how much I need that big strong hand of the Lord to guide, to steady me or to remind me He is near.
I throw all out fits for seemingly no reason at all.
I feel abandoned.
I stand inches from the finish line and refuse to cross it unless I get what I want.
That’s one way to run a race, but it sure creates a scene.
On other paths, like Trevor, I’ve got my own great plan and I’m convinced that’s all I need.
I start off with that smug “I’ve got this” look, realize I’m not quite all that and I end up walking it in. Puffed up on self and barely crossing the finish line.
That’s another way to race, but it’s not very inspiring.
Like Jack, there are paths where I hit the starting line with a bit of unrealistic expectations. But, eventually I remember why I’m on a path at all. I reconnect with my purpose, my values and my God (who has given me those purposes and values). I remember I am meant to run that race.
As I watched Jack run, I was reminded of Olympian Eric Liddell’s words:
“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
God made Jack fast and when he runs, I do think he feels God’s pleasure.
Me? God didn’t make me fast. But He made me other things.
I’m growing in awareness of them, in acceptance of them and in leaning into them.
And when I lean into them – and when I lean into Him – I feel His pleasure.
If I lose sight of Him, if I take my gaze off Him, if I let the fear rip me a part… I’m in despair with no shot at crossing the finish.
If I’m off the block carried by my own smugness, my own plans, my own version of truth…I’m out of breath with an anticlimactic finish.
If at any point in the path, I remember who He is and how He has made me and I lean into that, then I feel His pleasure and I run the races set out for me, crossing my finish lines with a new experience of my God.
My three little racers learned much about themselves on their paths that day. They each crossed what will likely be the first of many finish lines, both literally and figuratively. Their finish lines will be more than ranks and stopwatch times. If they are anything like the rest of us, their paths will be filled with forks and detours and criticism and doubts and probably some all out stops. But, I hope they lean into the God they know, the person He has created and the purposes He has planned. Then they will feel His pleasure.