In honor of my first ever 5K (Truman State University Homecoming!) I am going to share 5 lessons about faith that I learned while I was training and participating.
1. God compares you to your past self.
I walked the majority of the race, and I boldly came in 100th place out of 101 runners. As I walked, I was so far behind that I couldn’t see any of the other 100 people, except 3 dots on the horizon who were always just out of my reach and one girl who was behind me a ways. But that made no difference to me because the only story I know is my own. And my story is this: At the beginning of this summer, I huffed and puffed to the mailbox. And now I was walking/jogging 3.1 miles, aka farther that I’ve ever moved outside a car.
That’s the same way our Heavenly Father sees us. He knows all our stories. He know where we’re starting and where we’re headed, and exactly what we need to get there. We really don’t need to worry about what anyone else is doing. Which leads me to point number 2.
2. Your journey is unique.
Ironically, just like life, my three best pals were able to keep pace with one another way, way ahead of me. We all started at the same place (the back) and ran in a line two-by-two from the starting line. But after about 90 seconds, I got really tired. I hadn’t trained like they had, nor do I have the history they do of running and being active. So they ran on ahead, and finished within seconds of one another, a full 35 minutes before I even made it to the finish line! As a matter of fact, our girl Ashley wasn’t historically a runner but trained with such passion and discipline these last few months that she placed 3rd in our age group! #inspiration
In college, we all started in the same place but now, years later, they are all married with beautiful children and it’s easy to feel like maybe I’m far behind them. They run, and I walk/jog miles behind, all alone. But in reality, that’s not what is happening. We’re just all on one road to heaven, and our journeys to get there are supposed to be different. We all got to the finish line in the end! And when I got there, I learned this lesson . . .
3. It’s much easier to accomplish anything with the right environment.
Without the support of my friends, my family and the my WW group, I wouldn’t have done this. Sometimes, as a planned escape from something, I just won’t tell anyone I plan to do it. Then, if I quit or fail, no one will know and it will be far less embarrassing. But I told my friends I needed to learn discipline. In faith, in fitness, in food.
And they held me accountable. We checked in as we trained; we shared good days and days we wish had gone differently. We arrived in one car; we all ate the right breakfast; we met at the finish line. Accountability is as powerful as it is scary. Lean towards the powerful side.
4. Quitting is an option but it’s a stupid one.
Quitting only crossed my mind that morning as a question of logistics. And what I came up with was, “If I quit, I’d still have to walk some place to actually quit. I can’t just lay down in the middle of a road. So if I’m going to walk backwards towards my car to quit, I may as well just keep walking forwards and earn my t-shirt.”
And thank goodness I did. By the time I finally got to the end, I was happy but tired. And as I rounded the corner towards the finish, my friends–all 7 of them and all 5 kids–were all waiting and cheering me on. One made a sign that said “Erin Miller for Homecoming Queen.” When I got within earshot, Jen and Leslie jogged up and Jen said, “We’re gonna run the finish! We’re gonna be by your side but you’re running the rest of this race!” And we did. I never thought I’d finish any test of physical valor. Let alone quickly, but with one of them on each side and the encouragement of the rest, I didn’t cross the finish line tired and weary, but thrilled and energized.
In faith, it seems easier to take the path of least resistance sometimes. But it’s foolish. In the long run, when we keep our eye on the prize and move forward towards the Lord, it doesn’t matter how slowly or in what order. As long as we’re headed the right direction. Because in that direction lies victory. The other lies death!
5. Growth hurts.
In the grand scheme of life, I’m so young. I’m only 27. But I’m also the oldest I’ve ever been. And when I was even just 17, only ten years ago, I didn’t get sore the way I do now. To the point that it still surprises me. I watched another friend prep for his alumni rugby game with all sorts of wraps and braces and icy-hot ointment, and I thought, “Geez, why bother?” And the next morning when I woke up, I thought, “Oh no, why didn’t I bother?!”
I have this misconception in faith that if I do what God is calling me to do, then it won’t hurt. I have no idea where I got that from. Following God’s plan has historically been one of the most challenging, messiest things that anyone has ever set out to do. Time and time again, from the prophets to the saints to the people in our own parishes, we just hear about how life really tries to knock them down when they stand up for righteousness. Growth hurts. But it’s because we aren’t training for the race. We’re training for the finish line.