Hebrews 12:1,2 :
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, 2 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
My Betsy is a swimmer. She was blessed with the long torso, lean body type that proves an advantage for competitive swimming. She also has the tenacity and work ethic that have resulted in some summertime blue ribbons. She's a natural in the water.
There's this one habit, though, that her coach has worked with her hard to break. When Betsy is speeding through the water, she has a hard time not glancing over to the lanes on either side just to check on the competition. More than once, this has cost precious milliseconds that made the difference between 1st and 2nd. This is very common among young swimmers. You see it all the time - a kid gets out in front and decides that relishing the position includes looking back at those behind. And that wasted motion means time lost for the lead. Betsy's been swimming for a while but even so, she has to fight hard that natural tendency to look at the other lanes. For her, it's not to enjoy her lead but rather to see if she's still got the lead. She measures her progress, not by the finish line, but by the other swimmers. On the side of the pool, her coach shakes his head (or shouts "No, Betsy!!"), wondering how he can keep her from worrying about somebody else's race.
I don't swim competitively but, like my Betsy, I wrestle with looking in the other lanes of those in the race around me. I've walked with Jesus a long time and I should know better but I can still get distracted by some of those in the other lanes. Happened to me just the other day. I read a book about a dynamic Christ-follower who does remarkable things. I was inspired...and deflated. Wondering if I am doing any of the right things. I needed some encouragement to re-focus and so I thought you might, too. It's so tempting to see others in the lanes around us and think they are winning. Cuz they look like they're "ahead". So we pull harder, try to swim faster, all the while losing time because we are measuring our race by somebody else's. Instead of focusing on the finish line.
Do you know what I mean? We get distracted by all sorts of "wonder if's" -- should I go to that church where so and so goes? Or get the same kind of Bible? Or take that Bible study? We look at the lane on the other side of the pool and assume that we should homeschool or adopt or do certain Mommy-activities or be involved in a particular ministry just because someone else is and they sure look like they are winning.
It's not that we want to beat somebody else (I don't think) - we just want to be sure we're doing the right thing to win the race. And we can focus all too quickly on someone else's race and assume we are losing because we aren't running the same one.
But notice that the passage in Hebrews says "the race marked out for us". This means we have an individual, particular race that we are to run. It's ours. Not somebody else's. While we are all called to the same commands to love and serve and show mercy and obey God, our races are not all marked out the same. We are called to finish this race - not to swim in somebody else's lane. Time spent wondering or worrying about the other lanes distracts me from my own race, makes me lose not only focus and time but also joy and contentment. Of course we should clap and cheer for all those swimming beside us but they should not be a gauge of how well we are doing in our own lane.
The solution? Right there in that passage. Fixing my eyes on Jesus. He called me to the race that He marked out for me. He equips me to run that particular race. And He promises joy in the running if I keep looking at Him. Gonna work on focusing on the finish line. And less on the lanes of friends.