By Alexis Busetti
My dad used to kickbox. Like, competitively. He has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and since he had a martial arts school in my hometown I didn’t usually have to say much during those “my dad is tougher than your dad” debates in elementary school. As part of his training he ran a trail down by the lake near our hometown. Consistently. A lot. He ran that trail so often and so intently that (way before fitness trackers) he could tell you his pace and time within a few seconds and he was never wrong.
“…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2.
Even though I knew this about my dad, that still didn’t deter me from challenging him to foot races. My dad’s frame was thin back then and he was literally in fighting shape, but his training goal was swiftness in his limbs and endurance in his body. When I shouted, “Come on Dad! Let’s race!” he’d often oblige. The track was short. Usually just from our sidewalk to the neighbor’s driveway. But if I managed to beat him, the taunting surely followed. His only rebuttal was to remind me that I had just won the sprint, but he would leave me in his wake if I ever had the guts to go the distance. My dad did not play.
Of course, I wasn’t interested in the long game when I was nine. I just wanted to run a quick sprint, declare my victory, and get back to whatever it was I was doing before the opportunity to win even a mental trophy distracted me. And gee whiz if I haven’t seen that in my life still, nearly 30 years later. The wins in the front yard on the short track are fun, but they’re cheap. My dad was right. It’s the long game that counts.
Let us run with perseverance. Perseverance is the name of the game. Peter says perseverance is among the qualities that if we possess them and see to it that they increase in our lives, we won’t be caught sitting down, ineffective in our knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 1:5-8). Perseverance means running that same stinking trail day in and day out even though you’re a ring fighter because you know it will make you better. Perseverance means running even when you’re bored. Perseverance means going the distance again and again instead of relinquishing the race in the thrill of winning a tiny scoot.
The race marked out for us. Let’s be real. I get distracted. We all do. My microwave is even designed with this in mind. It beeps every half minute or so AFTER it’s done heating, over and over again, until you come get whatever you had to have so immediately that you threw it in the microwave in the first place. (This dance with my coffee is the story of my life.) We look at the race other people are running and all of a sudden their trail looks nicer than ours. The scenery is better. Not as many tree roots to get in the way. And the shade, don’t even get me started on the shade. But that’s not your business. Your race is not my business either. Our map is for our race.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus. I’ll just be real right now. The kind of focus and perseverance you need to run your race doesn’t come from staring at your feet. It comes from staring at His face. There’s something about eyes down, nose to the grindstone that feels natural. And it is natural. That’s the point. Running focused on us is our natural tendency and it can only bring about natural wins. Running our race with eyes fixed on Jesus is supernatural. Natural training brings about natural victories. Supernatural training brings about supernatural victories.
The pioneer and perfecter of our faith. When Jesus called his first century disciples His immediate instructions were to follow Him. Same with us. As in, He’s blazing the trail and our job is to bring up the rear. I read a book recently by the late Brennan Manning called Lion and Lamb that still has me in recovery. In it, he shares an analogy of the Godhead as the trailbosses of a wagon train. He depicts the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the leaders who look ahead, hunt, cook, and get in the muck with their cohort, repairing wheels and pulling rides out of the mud. He is the pioneer who goes ahead of us and the perfecter who ensures our attainment.
Even though it feels redundant to run the same trail over and over again, reps make us stronger, lighter on our feet. The training is good for us. I’m always asking my Trailboss to lead me, but it’s pretty hard to accept direction from a stationary point. We’ve got to run. Not run in place, but from a place of perseverance and focus.
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