Running the Mile I'm In
I was a runner growing up, all the way through my days in high school. I played all the sports, at some point, that allowed me the joy of an all out sprint. I wasn't all that big or tall, but I could run.
All the running for me was short distance. I never would have ran more than a few yards down the field or a lap around the track at a time. It was all sprints for me. That is what I loved, to race to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. I was never patient enough to run long distance; it just took too long. I would much rather give it all I have in a momentary burst of energy than pace myself for several miles around the track. That is why I enjoyed relays, basketball, and football so much. Those days are behind me but there is a sense in which I still try to sprint.
I mean to say that I try to sprint through life a lot of the time. I get to looking forward at the next thing, the next accomplishment, the next goal, the next season, and I want so badly to sprint and race to get there as quickly as possible. The problem is life doesn't work like. I can't make time go faster (and I am sure in my right mind I don't want it to). But I start to look forward to having a thorough knowledge of Biblical Greek, or being ready to apply for PhD's, or to paying off student loans from undergrad, or to "starting a career." Even in my sanctification as a follower of Christ, I sometimes hate how slow it seems I am growing in the fruit of the Spirit. I get discouraged that I can't make it all happen any faster. I want to sprint; let me sprint, Lord!
It is so hard for me to slow down and appreciate the steady pace. But as my Greek professor told me, "run the mile you are in." What he meant was, in a marathon (not that I have ran one), it is not helpful to think about running mile 20 when you are on mile 4. You have to focus on the mile you are in, and run that one. And once you finish mile 4, think about 5. This is a hard lesson for me to learn because I just want to think about the finish line and how to get there faster. I can see the end of the track, and what it looks like, and I want to be there now. My heart is on display in these moments. The desire for faster reveals my lack of patience and that I am taking for granted the season right in front of me. Life isn't a 400-meter dash. To be honest, sometimes I wish it was.
I can see the truth, though, in slowing down, and I need the Lord's help to do it. And I want to slow down because I see the good in it. We have a little girl on the way and our first Christmas season alone together as a family. These are highlights in life I want to relish and linger in. This is a good mile to be in. It is a joy to be the husband and father of this budding family. There is no need to rush. Instead, it is an opportunity to "make the best use of the time" as Paul says, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). Looking past today misses the opportunity to enjoy God's good gifts and serve him, and replaces it with anxiety about tomorrow. As I write these words I am telling myself, "slow down before you burn out, crash, and miss what is in front of you."
The reality is that life comes at the same speed for all of us. Learning takes time. Sanctification takes time. Maturity and growth as a person take time. There are no shortcuts to degrees or holiness. While my marriage to Kasey continues to be a joy, I see older couples who navigate disagreement and parenting so well, and I want so badly for me and Kase to be there. But we are on the right track. It is just not a sprint. The important and meaningful things in life take time.
I have started to run again, but in a different way--I am signed up for a few "long-distance" 5K's coming up. At first, I was signed up for a half marathon (13.1 miles) in December. Recently, I realized I have only ever ran as far as 3 miles a few times in my life! Even in trying to start running long distance, I have been trying to move too fast. I have been sprinting to run long distance! I need to slow down and take it step by step. There are no shortcuts. I'll focus on running the mile I'm in.