Last year Luke ran on the cross-country team. It was a new experience for all of us. We didn’t know what to expect and could not have predicted how it would go. Turns out Luke had an amazing experience which had lessons for all of us. Luke’s experience taught us about perseverance, the discipline of training, and what it means to be part of a team. As we prepare for what the cross-country season will look like this year, those lessons also seem fitting for the season of pandemic in which we are living.
Perseverance: When Luke started training, he couldn’t run the whole course, so he’d run what he could and walk in between. The encouragement was always to just “keep going” to the next marker, whether that was a tree or a cone or the curve on the path. When he got to that marker, he looked for the next one. Eventually he was able to run 95-100% of the course. Luke was never the fastest runner, but he learned how to finish the race.
None of us have “run” in a pandemic before. We’ve realized it’s definitely not a sprint; it is a “cross-country” marathon on an unfamiliar course with many unseen changes in terrain. We can’t see the finish line, but we can “keep going” to the next marker as individuals, as families, as a church, as a community. Trying to focus only on the “finish line” will likely produce discouragement and frustration because it’s trying to focus on something we can’t see. However, focusing on getting to the next marker, whatever that is, makes room for being present in and receiving grace for the moment, and keeps us moving forward.
What is the next “marker” for you? Do you need to take a break and catch your breath? Do it. Do you need to slow down and walk for a bit? Do it. Do you have energy to run more? Great. Do it. Whatever you need to do, do it and keep going. Don’t give up.
Discipline of training: Luke’s training was for body, mind, and spirit. He ran almost every day, but always had a no-run day in the week as well. Every run included “warm up” and “cool down” and not every run was the same level of intensity. Training meant staying hydrated, eating well, and getting enough sleep. Progress happened over time as the discipline of training enhanced the perseverance.
None of us have trained for a pandemic before. We’re having to use physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual muscles that have not been prepared for pandemic life. We simply cannot run at full speed 24/7. We are designed to need rest. Living in a pandemic doesn’t eliminate that need. We will do better if we figure out what “warm up” and “cool down” looks like for us and then do so intentionally. Prioritizing hydration, nutrition, and sleep helps not only with the physical running, but also with the mental, emotional, and spiritual running.
How are you taking care of your spiritual, emotional, and mental needs? How are you staying connected to God who is the source of our strength? How are you praying? How are you engaging with Scripture? How are you living in rhythms of rest and renewal? How are you being kind to yourself for “never having lived in a pandemic before”?
Being part of a team: Luke was usually the last one to cross the finish line. He knew that. We knew that. His team knew that. Starting the third race of the season, as Luke would come into the last part of the race, some of his teammates would join him to “finish” the race with him. They cheered him on. They ran beside him. They ran behind him. Their presence and encouragement always gave him the energy and confidence boost he needed to finish the race. Why did they do that? They did it because he's part of the team.
We are created to be in community with God and with one another. We are not intended to run this pandemic marathon on our own. Some of us will run. Some will walk. Some will crawl. Regardless of how fast or slow we are progressing, we aren’t alone. Look around and see if there’s someone who needs your presence and encouragement. Offer it. If you need some encouragement, look around to see that there are people all around you cheering you on.
One of the reasons we love cross-country is that the “competition” is as much with one’s self as it is with the other runners. Luke was not going to “win” a race, but he did significantly improve his time over the season. And that felt like “winning” for him. The biggest “win” for him, though, was being part of the team. After the first week of practice I asked him what he thought about cross-country. With joy in his heart and delight on his face he said “Mom!! I have teammates!!”
Friends, I so want you to be encouraged as this pandemic marathon continues. Persevere. Find the “training” that works for you. Remember that you are not alone. This pandemic is not about us “winning”. It is about us running faithfully with and to the One who has already won, and yet runs with us still.
Persevering with you!