Is there a phrase or a Bible verse you’ve heard so many times you go on auto-pilot when you hear it repeated?
As a runner, I’ve long had a bit of Scripture tucked away with special affection: …let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... I grasp for it when I push for the finish line in an actual race or need a swell of courage in the face of adversity.
That being said, I haven’t felt pressed to call upon “perseverance” lately. Perseverance calls to mind overcoming something difficult or momentous — a fight or a battle. But I haven’t felt like the world is coming against me. I don’t feel like I have a big finish line on the near horizon.
I’m just kind of… in the middle.
And then I saw it. The same familiar verse, translated nearly identically, but one word jumped off the page and shoved me right out of auto-pilot:
“And let us run with PATIENCE the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12:1, KJV)
It’s not so different from perseverance, really. But the word stirs something different in me. Patience calls to mind the miles nobody asks about. The middle 15 of the marathon. The flat road that isn’t necessarily hard but it’s there, and it’s just kind of… in the middle.
Sometimes the Lord gives me a “theme word” for a season of my life. Last year, hands down, the word was courage. So far this year, it looks like PATIENCE may be the word. (Gulp.)
What does it mean to run with patience?
Well, to run WITHOUT patience means two things. Either:
1. You speed up because you’re excited or nervous, and you blow up your pace, compromising your ability to make it up the next hill, let alone to the finish line.
2. You drop out because you’re bored or distracted, and you can’t really remember why you ever thought this was important to begin with.
So, how do we run with patience and avoid blowing up or dropping out?
1. Embrace the process. Whatever you’re doing, there’s always going to be a “middle” in there somewhere. And if you’re staring down at your feet, or just an arms-length ahead, the middle can look pointless, confusing, or just plain boring. Keep your head up — looking around and ahead doesn’t have to be a sign of distraction. It can be an act of gratitude. The Bible says to fix our eyes on Jesus. Where do you see Jesus?
2. Identify priorities. The “middle” is an easy place to check out and just go through the motions — and some important things can be missed. It’s crucial to fuel well during this time — if you wait until you’re thirsty or woozy from dehydration, you’ve waited too long to fuel. What re-fueling stations do you need in place to keep you on pace for the long haul?
3. Silence perfectionism. “I’m not going to do it unless I can do it right.” This sounds like a solid mantra – until it paralyzes you in perfectionism and procrastination. There are some things you’d love to do, but perhaps you can’t do them “all the way” in this season of life. Stop crippling yourself with a misguided assessment of what matters and what doesn’t. Instead of shelving your dreams until you can pursue them “all the way,” declare this your training ground. How can you log miles in this season?
Let’s encourage one another to run with patience – and live well on the long road. Share your thoughts in the comments!