Friday, January 22, 2016

The day after the Surf N Santa 5 miler I saw I had been bumped from 3rd place in my age group to 4th. The results online all of a sudden showed a new name at the top which bumped me down. My time didn't change but someone else had, apparently, run faster than me and not been included in the original results. I was bummed. I was honestly very sad. I felt like I had accomplished something, even if that something was as inconsequential as placing in my age group, and then felt like it was taken away.

Being bummed about losing my 3rd place age group finish really made me think; why would I care so much? Why be sad? My time didn't change, I still ran the exact same race. I don't think I could have run faster that day. I gave it my all and I should be happy with the result, right?

I don't think it's necessarily wrong to feel disappointed. After all, I put work into running. I want to do well and give my best. I think it would be strange if I didn't want to do well in a race. In fact, giving my best can be a way to honor God.
"Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man." (Colossians 3:23)
Feeling disappointed at not placing in a race is not automatically a sinful feeling. There's complexity here because my heart is a mixed bag. It's a jumbled mess of crossed wires that sometimes sends false signals and sometimes short-circuits. It would be much simpler to say, 'of course you were disappointed, don't worry about it!', or, 'hey, if you felt any sliver of disappointment you've made an idol out of running and are a dirty sinner!'. Both of those are extremes that are not quite right.

Motivations are a tricky thing. Examining them is a lot like trying to look at something with your peripheral vision. You can see it, but you can't really make out the details. Was I disappointed because I had put a lot of work into that race, or was I disappointed because I wanted people to think more highly of me because I placed? Probably both. In fact, I do want to glorify God with my running, to be a good steward of my body. But I also want people to think I'm something special because I can run fast (sometimes). There are no pure motives flowing out of my heart. It's all mixed. If you're honest you can see this is true of you too. The apostle Paul speaks of this when he wrote, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." (Romans 7:18).

If my heart sometimes cares too much about what others think do I stop running? Nope. Running isn't the issue, my heart is the issue. If it's not racing it will be something else. Knowing the motivations of my heart and its tendencies is a good place to start. I can take my weakness, my brokenness, my wrong motivations to God and say "help!". When I am weak, he is strong. I can pray and ask God to help me not value the opinion of man.

One of my favorite prayer books is called "The Valley of Vision". It's a collection of puritan prayers. In one of the prayers titled 'Love-Rest in God' the author writes:

My dear Lord
I depend wholly upon thee,
wean me from all other dependences.
Thou art my all, thou dost overrule all and delight in me.
Thou art the foundation of goodness,
how can I distrust thee?
how be anxious about what happens to me?
In the light of thy preciousness the world and all its enjoyments are infinitely poor:
I value the favour of men no more than pebbles.

I love that last line. While I can't say that I value the opinion of men no more than pebbles, it is what I want.  I pray that the opinions of others would hold no more sway in my life than a pebble does. And, as the end of the prayer says, that God would "grant me grace to distinguish between the genuine and the false, and to rest in thee who art all love."

The truth is, God may not ever grant me complete victory over my misplaced motivations in this life.  While this can be frustrating and discouraging at times it also leaves me no choice but to wholly depend on God, and there are a lot worse places to be.

p.s. Oh yeah, it was a mistake. I actually did get 3rd place. They accidentally added someone to the wrong results page and they fixed it the next day.

My illustrious prize is a wine coaster.

1 comment

  1. OK I got so bummed on your behalf reading the first paragraph -- and then ended up being moved by the next couple of paragraphs. And now I want to read The Valley of Vision.


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