I once loved to run. I loved sprinting, running as fast and as hard as I could towards the finish line, stretching my legs and arms as far as they would reach, hoping to be a millisecond faster than I was the day before. I loved the wind in my hair and the sun on my back. I especially loved running in relays, calling out “kick” and “stick,” passing the baton and cheering with all my might as our team finished strong.
Those days are long gone, but I often think of the lessons I learned while running around that oval. One of the most important lessons was one of the simplest — run your own race.
I remember trying the hurdles for the first time. I had watched my friends glide over those fiberglass obstacles with ease and even though I was, and still am, about as graceful as a baby giraffe, I thought surely I could do it too. I tried and tried and tried to leap over the hurdles while maintaining my pace, but time and time again I would hit the dang thing and fall over.
After practice, I walked back to the school building with Coach and expressed my frustration. He listened, said he understood and then, instead of giving me pointers on how to get over the hurdles, he told me about the special starting blocks he wanted me to start using for the quarter-mile. You see, that was my favorite race, the one I was the best at. He also told me that he wanted me and the top male quarter-miler to start practicing together each day, taking turns chasing each other, encouraging each other.
He wanted me to stop paying attention to what others were doing and run my own race.
This tendency to compare myself to others didn’t stop at the edge of the track. Oh no. It followed me all the way through the halls of high school, college and beyond. And I bet it followed you around too.
I wasted much of my twenties playing the comparison game.
I remember listening to my friends with business degrees talk about the amazing vacations they were planning while I was figuring out how to live on a nonprofit salary. I saw all the (financial) advantages of getting degrees in things I was not gifted in and completely undervalued the satisfaction I found in serving others professionally.
I saw friends dating and marrying their high school and college sweethearts while I went two years without a real date. I wanted so desperately to meet the person that I would spend the rest of my life with that I forgot there were plenty of adventures to be had right in front of me.
I was the fumbling baby giraffe over and over again. This time the hurdles weren’t literal, but they sure knocked me on my rump just the same.
It wasn’t until my thirties that I finally really, truly realized the depth of Coach’s lesson and it transformed the way I looked at the world.
You see, from the right angle, anything can look amazing. But when you let your insecurity rule, you completely miss the path that was chosen just for you.
Running your own race is about being true to who you are at your core, who you were made to be and what you were called to do.
All that comparison that I was doing in my twenties was based on me not valuing the gifts and opportunities that I had been given. Once I got real about who I was and what I had been called to do, the path before me was clear.
As I sit and write this tonight, I am reminded of a verse that I posted in the locker room all those years ago.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, setting aside the sin of comparison and the weight of insecurity. Let us run our own race, with eyes fixed on what is to come and a heart tuned to Jesus.
We’re all on the same team, each with a different part to play, a different race to run. Let’s do it together, encouraging each other, cheering each other on. Let’s not let comparison get in the way living the life we were meant to live.
How about you, is comparison something you struggle with? How do you deal with it?