One year I ran in “The Turkey Trot” on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas. It was an 8 mile run with about 3,000 competitors on the day that I ran. I ran with a friend and we had agreed to stay together throughout the race. He was about ten years older than me and not in as good of shape as me. We ran together for about 4 miles. He was going much slower than I could have gone but I stayed with him. I was coasting. Finally he said, “Dave I am tired and need to slow down. You go ahead.”
So, I began to run faster—and I am no one’s idea of a speed merchant. However, I was pretty fresh and I began to pass runners. I felt like a super star. I passed bus-loads of people.
The race ended by running down a bridge ramp which was about 4 lanes wide. At the bottom of the bridge you ran through the finish booths where they clocked your time and gave you your position. As I was running down the bridge toward the finish line there was a group of about 20 or more friends who had agreed to finish together. They had joined hands in a long line that blocked most of the four lanes.
They were quite a distance ahead of me but I thought, “Maybe I could catch them.” I began to sprint and went around the right end of their human chain and finished the race about 3 seconds before those 20 people.
It felt so good! Never mind that I finished about number 1,400 and the winner of the race was probably already home eating turkey. It was my only official foot race ever and it was a great experience.
The metaphor of “life as a race” has been used often in secular writing and in spiritual writing—the Bible for example. It is such a popular metaphor because, well, life is a race. (Profound Dave!)
Running a race, and living our lives, includes starting well, running smart, dealing with challenges along the course, stamina, perseverance, jump starting when we have been coasting, re-directing when we have gotten off course, and finishing well.
In VBS this week we are working on the theme of “The Amazing Race”—teaching the children about Jesus and His commands through this metaphor.
I have been thinking a lot recently about how I am running at this stage in my own race. I have been asking myself if I have been faithful and run well. I am wondering if I am on course. I am thinking a lot about stamina and finishing well.
I want to ask you to consider one more aspect of the “life as a race” metaphor. The aspect is this: Is the life race a marathon or is it a “sprint/rest, sprint/rest, sprint/rest, …” kind of race?
I have heard 8 dozen people say, “Life is a marathon and you need to run like a marathon runner—steady and strong.”
A few years ago someone said to me, “I think life is more of a “sprint/rest, sprint/rest, sprint/rest …” kind of race. As I have thought about this idea it seems this person was right. I think the race of life, at least as I have experienced it, is a sprint/rest experience.
Sometimes we need to sprint and we simply have no choice about that. Sometimes we have the opportunity to rest. I am in a sprint mode right now. I have a couple weeks of rest mode coming.
The trick to running skillfully in the race of life is to sprint well when you need to sprint and to rest well when you can rest. There are several ways to fail in the race. We can only sprint—and we’ll get exhausted. We can sprint poorly—and we won’t get anywhere. We can rest poorly or not at all—and we’ll get exhausted. We can rest all the time—and we won’t get anywhere.
(In all this I am of course only addressing the “human side” of the Divine/human cooperation in the Christian life. There is not only running but there is also depending on God.)
Would you give some reflection on your own life in the sprint/rest model? How are you sprinting and how are you resting? The people who get really good at the sprint/rest practice of running are the ones who get somewhere and who can run this race for a long, long time.