Runners take off at the start of a race.

Running the Race

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

In 2015, I became an outdoor “runner.” It started out as a way to connect with God in His creation, relieve stress, and blast worship music in my earbuds along the way. I didn’t care how fast I was, I did it more for the movement. Over the years, I became faster and even called myself a “decent runner.” Looking back, however, my focus on Jesus decreased and my focus on my efforts and performance increased. While my running fitness decreased after turning 40 and having Jackson, I hadn’t given up that I would become a “decent runner” again.

One way I set goals in this post-40 season has been through my church’s annual 5k. Last year, my time was the best since having Jackson and I was determined that 2023 was going to be another PR (personal record) year for “post-Jackson” running. I had been training when I could and even figured out an interval system to speed up my time with my fitness watch. I also knew that when Daniel (my husband) runs with me, which we had planned to do, he always motivates me to run faster.

The 5k day finally arrived and I was pumped. The weather was perfect, Daniel was going to be my running buddy, and it was going to be a “PR Day.” Then, Daniel woke up too sick to run, leaving me trying to recalculate my plan. When I got to the race and got out of the car, I realized I forgot my fitness watch! The one thing I had left to keep me aware of my pace was missing! So, I tried to recalculate my plan again, quickly losing steam that it was going to be a PR day.

The race began and I found myself confused by my “plan c” to monitor my pace. Thankfully, the worship music in my earbuds, which I had lost awareness of because I was focused on all of the other things about the race, got my attention and drew me to God. I started listening to the lyrics more than trying to figure out my plan and remembered why I started running in the first place. Suddenly, I felt freedom. Instead of focusing on my controls (or lack thereof) for the race and my ways to project the outcome, I let it all go and decided to just do my best and ran along with my Jesus music. I found myself cheering for those who were passing me, rather than trying to figure out how fast I was going or how I was going to reach my goal. The lyrics of my music reminded me of God’s faithfulness, love, and sovereignty. I felt incredible joy that, regardless of my race time, God used that time to remind me of Hebrews 12:1-2. Running the “race” successfully is only possible when my goal is to be focused on Jesus, the Author, and Perfector of my faith. God’s goal for this race was far more important than mine!

When I finished the race, those who knew my original goal asked me if I reached it. When I checked the chip time, I couldn’t believe what I saw! God, in all of His grace, apparently picked me up and carried me while He was teaching me because I finished more than 2 minutes faster than last year! God used this race to remind me (again) that my methods of control can weigh me down and distract me from the freedom and joy of trusting in His ultimate plan and purpose for my life. I needed this reminder for so much more than just this race. My plans for joy and peace are nothing compared to His plans. May God receive all of the glory for May 13, 2023’s personal record (PR) because I can confidently say that it had nothing to do with me! 

If you are feeling frustrated that your plans aren’t going the way you hoped or your methods of control aren’t working out, remember the first question and answer in the New City Catechism that we teach our students at Redeemer School:

Q. What is our only hope in life and death?

  1. That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
New City Catechism

To God be the glory!