Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1, 2 NIV)
Paul likes a good race analogy, does he not? That’s because it works, it preaches. Whether we are runners or not, we understand it. Barring any physical disability, we’ve run before.
One thing I know about running is that the fastest way to get tripped up is to look somewhere other than where I’m going. If I am distracted by what’s on either side of me, I’ll trip, and most assuredly if I try to look behind me, I’ll be eating pavement. Or rather, it will be eating me.
I find it so easy to get distracted by the world around me – the successes of others, the failures of others, the chaos in the world, material things. It’s easy to take the focus off of my personal race, the one laid out for me, and look at yours. I can spot a flaw like it’s my job. Most of us probably can.
But there’s that really pesky thing Jesus said about planks and specks. I’m running my race with a log in my eye and I’m trying to help you remove a splinter. I don’t think it’s that my sin is worse than yours, or vice versa, I think it’s that the responsibility for my own is greater. In other words I have log-size responsibility for myself and splinter size for yours. There is a time to call one another to a higher standard, but not if we aren’t first cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our own lives and responding to His call to a higher standard.
I also can’t compare my success with your success. I am to rejoice with you, encourage you, maybe even learn from you, but never to envy you. You’re running your race and I’m running mine. They will naturally look different and that’s okay. As a wise woman once said, “Stay in your lane, girl!”
The other thing that I find distracts me from my race is what’s behind me. I look back and see things I wish I could change, times I wish I could have a do-over. I also see really sweet times and wish I could go back to those places and stop the clock. My heart longs to rewind a few years and be able to stay there. While I can maintain relationships with friends, I can never really go back. That’s not how life works.
I am called to go forward, no, run forward, and embrace whatever is waiting there. I can’t be what I’m called to be if I’m stuck in a time that’s long gone.
We have to learn to seek forgiveness where we’ve hurt others, extend forgiveness where we’ve been hurt, give thanks for sweet seasons of life and move forward.
Looking back robs us of both today and tomorrow. Looking to the side distracts us from our own race.
The only place to focus our attention is straight ahead. We look to the finish line, which is really amazing.
Otherwise, we eat pavement.