2019: Run the Race!
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Nashville is a town full of runners. Turkey Trots, Boulevard Bolts, 5k’s, marathons. Part of what I love about our city’s heart is its fitness-for-a-cause mindset. I ran them for a while in my early twenties. And by them, I mean half-marathons, not fulls. And by them, I mean two. But it only takes conquering one physical trial, whether 13.2 or a lap around the block chasing your dog, to forever celebrate the moment you took one more step than you thought you could take and crossed a finish line that you never felt you’d reach. There is divine ecstasy, merciful adrenalin, in gritting through a taxing trial.
Sisters, as we conclude this year, we are all in the final stretches of our 2018 race. Some have had smooth runs, sailing through with strong muscles, trained and bolstered to face the obstacles ahead with agility and vigor. Some are hardly sure how they’ll drag their battered and bruised feet across the finish line at all. But at the end of every year, every race, there is always growth. There is always some victory to celebrate because whether you’ve conquered 1 mile or 26.2, whether you’ve flourished this year or fallen apart, you have not quit running. And that is a victory.
Yet as we reflect on 2018 and cross over one more finish line, we cannot dismiss the pains that preceded the victory. Some are simple pains of preparing and training for success. Some are pains of unforeseen injury, inflicting deep scars that may never go away. And just as we’ve suffered them in this year’s past, we know we can anticipate them in the new year to come. So how can we better equip ourselves for the new year’s pains? How can we cultivate the mindset, priorities, and perspective to run the 2019 race set before us with wisdom, resilience, and endurance?
Be steady, don’t sprint. As the year closes, with our blood sugars up and our gym attendance down, we cling to the mercy of leggings and oversized sweaters, fervent and resolved to reset ourselves after our last New Years Eve hoorah. Keto, pure barre, no alcohol or sugar or carbs. We are vehement to get back on track and back into those jeans.
Don’t mishear me – these are all worthy and healthful habits that I 100% need to get my sights set back on! My goal this year, though, is to resist the temptation of a self-praising, Instagram-able fitness craze, of “cutting it all out” cold-turkey or investing every ounce of hope for a redeemed bikini body in a 10-day juice cleanse. This year I’m trying to remember that the year is indeed a marathon, not a sprint. The fastest pace or cleanest diet in January doesn’t always lay the soundest foundation for the rest of the race. In fact it often leaves me in fatigue and frustration. This year, I’m aiming for small, daily changes to reset habits for a whole year of health, a full race fostering grace and perseverance in place of perfection. We’re all bound to stub a toe or eat a carb at some point, let’s not try to sprint before we stretch.
Congratulate yourself at every mile marker. Every mile you make it further than you’ve been before is worthy of celebration. The small achievements that we so often are running too fast to stop and cherish – they are recurring and necessary tokens of encouragement. No mile marker is too small to motivate us, refuel us, and affirm to us that we are capable and that we are still moving. As strong women, we are often last in line of the people we champion, constantly expending our encouragements to others while tearing down and critiquing ourselves. Take a moment to stop at each mile marker this year and congratulate yourself that you’ve made it this far. No mile is easy. Every one we conquer, whether sailing by in Olympic fashion or staggering across with bloody feet, is a victory. Honor them as you keep getting stronger.
Set your mind on others’ successes in the midst your struggles. I can’t gloss over this point as it is immensely painful at first but has brought me unparalleled healing in past and current seasons of suffering. Joy can be found in genuine happiness for loved ones who are on mountaintops while you are in valleys, and vice versa. After the five-mile marker of my first half-marathon, some very sharp pains started to set in in my knees and calves. While not far at all for a seasoned runner, I hadn’t run much more than three miles before beginning the training for the race. That fifth mile was a major success that ushered in some real physical suffering for me. I knew I had to get my mind off of my legs if I had any chance of going seven more miles. So I started to pray. For each new mile I began, I meditated on praying for one of my dear friends or family members. Their health, jobs, relationships, any obstacles they were currently facing. And you know what? It got me through, and miraculously left me feeling stronger and finishing with an overall faster time than I’d hoped for.
Of course that greatly differs from celebrating a friend’s promotion when you’ve lost a job or hosting a baby shower in the wake of a miscarriage. But I know a God who cherishes humility over happiness, and who longs to reward those who put others before themselves. And you know what? He gives even more lavishly when we offer love to those who have in lieu of bitterness and envy for what we don’t. Genuine joy for others’ triumphs in seasons of our own loss is a true spiritual ice bath! It will absolutely hurt before it heals, but it will indeed heal.
As we conclude the hard fought race of 2018, we all enter this next one with dreams and goals, regrets and hard lessons learned. Embrace what you’ve achieved, hold fast to what you’ve learned, and simply check in with what your heart needs to run 2019 with stability, perseverance, and joy in the midst of what will inevitably be a battle; a battle that you are absolutely strong enough to endure. Don’t sprint, cherish each mile conquered, celebrate the ones you love, even when their race is far smoother than yours, and I have a feeling this year might be your greatest finish yet.