One week ago I ran my first 5K! It was the culmination of many hours of hard work. I have danced all my life, and if soccer had been popular during my childhood, I’m certain I would have played. Yet, outside of dance, I have never considered myself to be athletic. I have worn corrective lenses since I was four and my hand-eye coordination has never been sound. I was never able to climb that rope in gym class, and during dodge ball (aka go after the girl with the glasses), I realized I was a marked target. I never learned to swim, and was even crappy at badminton. So, dance was it. I could do that for hours on end (still do). Running was something out of the ordinary and the thought of entering myself into a race to do it was certainly encouraged by others, and not fully believed by me. However, the race was planned to occur at my absolute favorite place, the beach. Who could say no to that?
The night before the race, I was a wreck. I was nervous and I couldn’t sleep. Finally, 6am arrived and provided the excuse to get out of bed. As I dressed, I began to pray and reflect and hoped to just finish. My time was not important. The other people who were to race would be non-factors. My only concerted thought was to finish. When I arrived to the area where the race was to begin, there were people everywhere! Some looked just as nervous as I assumed I did. While others looked like they were pulling up to a drive through of their favorite restaurant where they knew and had tried everything on the menu. I made certain my music was cued up to the playlist I created for such a time as this. As I watched my phone to hit 7:00am, my heart raced and again, I calmed myself by saying, “just finish.” My phone hit 7:02am and nothing was happening. All the race material said the 5K would start promptly at 7:00am. I began to experience a mild panic, likely amplified by the folks in the crowd who began to say, “The 5K has already started!” As I meandered my way through those waiting for the half to began, I worried. I was so consumed with the thought of “finishing” that I’d not put effort into thinking about “beginning.” I began to use energy that I was “saving” at the onset to make certain that I actually began the race. I moved quickly to the front so that I could start. I could not imagine the thought of not even beginning the challenge. Hold up! Not even beginning. Let’s pause there.
So often we focus on something being over. I know, I’m guilty of it myself. Its as if when something ends, something else won’t occur to demand our attention. Life is full of cyclical experiences, and particularly as believers, we can expect that this is just a established order in our lives. I shutter often as a crisis presented to me, but I know, understand and accept that nothing comes to me without being permitted by God. So, even when his hand is not completely visible to me, my faith can kick in and supply the assurance I need to endure. Yet, what if I never was presented the opportunity to test and try my faith? What if God didn’t allow circumstances that were odd, difficult, painful and overwhelming in my life? Would I still have the faith that I have today? And if so, how could I develop an appreciation for the hardness that rocked me to who I am? Yes, the race is not given to the swift nor to the strong (Ecclesiastes 9:11) , but to the one that endureth until the end (Matthew 24:13). However, we can’t get to the race if we don’t begin. Everyone’s beginning differs. Some of the runners were at the front of the line and got off to a quick start. Others midway. Still others were like me, way at the back, not hearing, not seeing, just having to trust that our beginnings would enable us to end just like everyone else.
We are reminded in Zechariah 4:10 to not despise small beginnings. Small things have to happen in God in order for the bigger things to happen in God. When I was able to begin, I enjoyed the race. I had the pleasure of viewing new scenery and running on flat terrain as compared to my hilly neighborhood and area parks. Yet more importantly, my mantra of “just finishing” became a distant memory. I felt the sun on my skin. I noticed the beauty around me. I loved the cheers from onlookers along the course. Most importantly, I became affirmed by those running and walking with me. My concentration was no longer in the finished product, but instead appreciating the journey. I thought, how might I apply this to Christian living?
Let’s not be in such a hurry for something to end. Because, even when it does, there is something else ahead. When I “finished” I didn’t return to my hotel, I remained outside in the race area for the next 2 hours, to cheer on those who were completing the half marathon. You see, even when we “finish” someone else is still on course. We can transfer the energy we expelled to assist them in completion of their journey.
Small beginnings in God manifest into big beginnings in God. One course sets the pace for one’s dissertation. One date sets the journey to a marriage. One internship sets the path to a career. One blog sets the foundation for a book. One run sets the stage for a marathon. And as God gives us grace for completion, we mustn’t be too overwhelmed and consumed with self that we fail to pass along affirmation to those who are traveling along with us.
The same elements of an ending are also captured in a beginning: hope, promise and fortitude. The more we are able to tap into these characteristics at the beginning, the greater our conclusion. We must set ourselves to do as the ancestors said, “start out like you’re going to hold out.” Remember the race is not given to the swift, but we can’t even think about enduring without beginning.
What have you not started? We are near the halfway mark of 2014. Get going! Make some strides. Begin again.