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My 800 Meter Spiritual Life

By Jason Herbig, Rooftop's worship pastor

I don’t mean to be the guy who keeps blogging about his kids’ athletic ventures, but since that seems like the only thing I do with my free time these days…

A couple of weeks ago, my son was competing in his district’s prestigious 5th grade track meet. For years, I have tried to convince him that he should run track. He has long, strong legs and can run very fast. He has historically played other contact sports timidly, and I thought the more individual nature of track might allow him some greater levels of athletic success. He was assigned to run the 800 meter run (two times around the track). It can be a very difficult race for the inexperienced runner because it requires the pacing strategy and the endurance of a distance runner, yet still feels like a sprint in some ways. I felt like my son had a decent chance to do well though given the length of his gait and the slim odds that any of these fifth graders had given a lot of thought to a race strategy. 

But after the starting pistol fired, things didn’t go as well as I had hoped. First he got tangled in a pack of boys moving to the inside. He showed a couple spurts of speed. But he was trailing the main group by the end of the first lap—about 50 meters out of the lead. As the boys made the last turn, all hope was not lost. I could tell by the way he was running that he still had plenty of gas in the tank, and many of the leaders were running on fumes. I waited for my son to kick in those long legs. But he kept his pace as if passing anyone wasn’t going to be possible, so why try. That is until a small kid made a move to pass him at the last minute. When he saw the kid over his shoulder, he took off with the kind of speed I had hoped to see 50 meters ago. He bulleted towards the finish line – too little too late to overtake anyone in front of him.

After conceding that it was a hard race, I looked forward to watching him in the 50 meter dash. Perhaps he was still tired from the 800, but it was obvious he was not running as hard as I’d seen him run before. It was as if he would push to the point it started getting a little uncomfortable and not push harder.

As I left the track, I thought about how much my son’s track performance resembled my approach to my spiritual walk. Often my pursuit of God is hindered or stalled when things start to get uncomfortable—when I have to push through something hard or have little motivation to move forward at full speed. Sometimes I get tangled up with obstacles that become an excuse for not giving it my all. Sometimes my apathy for where I place keeps me doing the bare minimum until something sneaks up from behind to motivate me into gear. The apostle Paul compares our Christian life to a race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he encourages us to “run in such a way as to get the prize.” And that’s what I need to remember when I start treating life like an 800 meter run.