Leg detail of a competitive, athletic young man running off road outdoors through the woods on a trail in the afternoon wearing 1sportswear.

I thought I was in shape

I have been working hard for years to stay in some semblance of physical shape. I do core exercises and walk at least three miles every day, lift weights three times a week, and try to be careful about what I eat. I also hike one of my favorite trails occasionally. It’s a little more than three miles in length with some elevation and beautiful views. It is my favorite of three interconnected trails in the area.

Last weekend, I finished my hike and made my way out to the parking lot when I encountered some men setting up a tent and supplies. I asked what they were doing. They explained that they were preparing for an “ultra-marathon” that would be run on Sunday.

I asked what constituted an “ultra” marathon. They told me that people would run all three trails, three times, for a total of sixty-nine miles. 

Suddenly, my three-mile hike didn’t seem like such an achievement.

Run your race

Much of life is perspective. You can no doubt name people with whom you feel superior and people with whom you feel inferior. You’re the same person in both instances, but you don’t feel like the same person.

This is not a prescription for healthy souls.

Years ago, a counselor gave me this maxim: “I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am; I am who I think you think I am.” 

Our culture defines our self-worth by our worth in their eyes; we then define our self-worth the same way.

By contrast, God’s word heralds the amazing good news that our self-worth is centered in the unchanging love of our unchanging Father (1 John 4:8). He then calls us to a “race” that is uniquely suited for us, one that should not be evaluated by the races others are intended to run.

Scripture calls us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Paul did just that, testifying near the end of his life that he had “finished the race” and thus “kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Your race is not my race, and my race is not your race. You have gifts, abilities, educational experiences, opportunities, and challenges I may not have. I have gifts, abilities, educational experiences, opportunities, and challenges you may not have. You have influence with people I do not; I have influence with people you do not.

The key is to find our self-worth in our Father’s love and then run our specific race in gratitude for such grace. When we do, our Lord uses our obedience to make a difference no one else can make.

One day, we will hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

And that “finish line” will be worth it all.