I realized something the other day, and don’t mind me being overly-dramatic, but it’s kind of changed everything.
We ran in a race on Saturday. A 5k, with our family, for heroes and surrounded by heroes and because of heroes who sacrificed actually everything both as long ago as September 11th and as recently as July.
So Lane and I hear about this race and we’re all in. You say you’re going to spend your life for the sake of another? Do whatever it takes, whatever the cost, whatever it looks like so that someone else can taste a good life? We’re right there next to you, in it with you, rallying behind you.
A race, 3.1 miles, 3 kids, Lane and me and a stroller- let’s just say it wasn’t our fastest time, our smoothest race. I’d like to blame it on some (minor?) miscommunications between Lane and I- he wanted to play music from the stroller so we could bring the party, I wanted to focus on getting across the finish line as fast as we could. I’d like to blame it on my seven-year-old who is still working on endurance. I’d like to blame it on the heat or our starting position that was a little further back than I wished or how I really, really had to go to the bathroom.
All I know is that all I could focus on was us getting across that finish line.
Brennan was much the same, in her own way. She wanted to quit, she didn’t want to race, running was stupid and boring and it hurt too much to be worth anything.
Then, something shifted when we were about three-quarters of the way through the race. Brennan, whose low-whimper of complaint had sustained us thus far, began to change what she was saying. It started as a whisper, as if she was only trying to convince herself, and then she picked up speed it and it became a flat out battle cry: I can do it. I CAN do it. I CAN DO IT!
After that? Everything shifted.
Suddenly we were trying to keep up with her- on and on she went. She stopped noticing every bump in the road, every false finish line that we thought was just around the next corner, every muscle in her body that ached. I was no longer frustrated with Lane or frustrated at how the morning went or frustrated at all, really.
In it together, the five of us, having actual fun as we raced the streets of Savannah.
What I’m saying?
She began to shift her focus, and everything changed.
She shifted her focus and we raced our hearts out, finishing strong, finishing as a family, finishing to the cheers of the crowd who bore witness to our hard-won finish.
There’s a lie and a question that rattles around my soul sometimes, one that I have asked of God in the last few years: Can’t it ever just be easy?
Oh, this one chafes at the pain related to all sorts of hardship, of struggles, of relational and spiritual and medical and professional wounds.
Can’t I ever just catch a break?
Can’t we have smooth waters, get a little rest, find a little reprieve?
Being a mom is hard, this career is hard, not knowing the future is hard, pursuing dreams is hard- Can’t we ever just have the easy victory rather than the hard-fought battle?
Can’t it ever just be easy though?
It’s almost an accusation, really, if I let myself hear the real pain underneath the question:
Are you withholding good from me?
Another question is offered back to me in return: Is good only synonymous with easy?
And so I have been flooded with a reckoning of sorts, as I listen to the lie underneath the pain- Life is better when it is easy. Goodness isn’t here, now, but rather there, then. Goodness is when we’re at the next step, when it is easy, when this is over.
As we were running those streets on Saturday, a thought crossed my mind and has stuck with me so ferociously that I can only believe it was God, meant to nudge me and pivot my soul and wreck me a little bit too: Can’t you see the goodness even right here?
Not the goodness from the rush at the finish line, not the goodness once your child has stopped complaining, not the goodness once this is easier and gentler and well, over.
Can’t you see the goodness within your own actual race?
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I define the good life. Seems like I tend to believe a good life is a certain body, a hard-fought career path with a paycheck designed for a comfortable life, no disease, no struggle, no pain. If you’re not there, go ahead and change your own story- be your hero, claw your way to the top, do what it takes to claim the easy and good and well-deserved path for yourself that involves a lot of pedicures. Go get ‘em, you go-getter.
And yet, there I was, slogging through a slow race side by side with my husband and our three kids, living a life I never dreamed I would have lived, in a city I never would have placed myself in, next to people who I never thought I’d know, feeling such an abundance wash over me, wanting to be nowhere else in the entire world.
Can’t you see the goodness within your own actual race?
It’s a lot of work, truth be told, to be present in this one actual life. But somehow the truest thing I have leaned into lately is this, the one that has kind of changed everything: This is the one life we get to live, this is the one race we get to run, might as well live it full.
And so I got to work, I shifted my focus.
I expect God to show up every single day. I look for his abundant generosity, his extravagant goodness, his presence in the ordinary and the exquisite.
I choose to keep my eyes on joy and on grace instead of bitterness and perceived-lack; I choose what I behold, honestly- knowing that we become what we behold.
I ruthlessly seek community, create community, because something sacred happens within community. Within the mundane ordinary talk of kids and schedules and the wild lives we live, we intertwine our hearts to one another, being reminded how we need each other so. We carry each other, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally. We take care of each other and cheer each other across the finish-line, bearing witness to our hard-fought finishes.
It’s not always sexy, running our race, fully living this life, I’ll tell you that much.
But here’s what ends up happening otherwise- I rise and fall based on any wave that comes my way.
Know what kind of life that is?
An exhausting one.
But if I let myself, if I actually open my eyes to what’s around me, the people and the extravagance and the purpose in the waves and the middle of the painful race, I see what God meant for me to learn again and again and again: Goodness is here. Do you see it?
See life this way and how do you walk away unchanged?
Circumstances haven’t changed, but I have
and that makes all the difference.
Want another easy way to stay encouraged and find the goodness within your own actual race? Get my verse card printable and let them shift your focus.