Voices of Faith: It’s a marathon, not a race

Having lived in a lot of different places, I enjoy the opportunity that social networking gives me to keep connected with friends and family, no matter the geographical separation.

As with many things, however, scrolling through that news feed brings with it some drawbacks. I’m sure many of you experienced the same thing. Somewhere along the hundredth post of someone’s exotic island vacation, new house, second car, or near superhuman feats of intelligence from their children, you begin to think that maybe your life isn’t quite measuring up. Like a virus, this idea starts to spread through our minds and our hearts until we find ourselves in the middle of dissatisfaction, cynicism, or even depression.

This is not a new nor uncommon phenomenon. The sense of inadequacy that comes from the constant unconscious comparison of other people’s best hits with our worst moments even has a name recognized in the medical health community: “the Facebook phenomenon.”

Whether it’s Facebook, “reality” TV, or even conversations with friends from work, it’s all too easy to fall in the trap of allowing the accomplishments (or even the failures) of other people to give us a distorted sense of our own self-worth.

In the Bible, the book of Hebrews gives us a great metaphor. “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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

What recently caught my attention about this passage was the source of our difficulty in the race of life. The author doesn’t warn us about the other racers — they don’t even figure into the metaphor. The thing we have to watch for are “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangle. Perhaps you’ve heard the old quote “it’s not the mountains ahead that do you in, but the pebble in your shoe.”

We are in a marathon together. We didn’t all start together, and we are all moving at different paces, dealing with different obstacles, and traversing different sections. Perhaps even more significantly, we are all dealing with different rocks in our shoes that no one else can see. To make it a race against each other only creates a contest that no one will win.

Instead, let’s all run hard, and with persistence focus our efforts on obtaining victory over the things in our own lives that hold us back, whether they are sinful patterns, addictions, thoughts, or just simple bad habits. Don’t compare you’re life to (what you think are) the lives of people around you. Strive to grow in such away that you can instead compare who you are becoming to who you were. In a race, we cheer for ourselves and try to defeat others. In a marathon, we cheer for each other and defeat our own limitations. Let’s run a marathon together, fixing our eyes on Jesus as our example and encouragement.

Grant Parkki is the Christian Education Pastor at Kenai New Life. For more information about Kenai New Life, including service times and ministry opportunities, check out kenainewlife.org.

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