When I first joined my high school cross-country running team, I had a bad habit of looking at my feet. Partially, this was due to the fact that the school cross-country course included a narrow path that meandered through the forest, snaring runners with roots and puddles and the occasional gopher-hole. With so many obstacles, how could Inot watch where I was going?
But looking at my feet had an unintended consequence: It slowed me down. There was no way to race effectively and watch my step at the same time. Necessity forced me to make a choice: either accept the fact that I may trip, or never discover my true speed.
I chose to lift my eyes from the path, regardless of all obstacles.
What I discovered changed my entire strategy. When I ran with my chin up and my eyes straight ahead, not only did I gain speed, but I found that the obstacles were completely irrelevant. My peripheral vision made note of all potential threats to my safety, and, by the time I reached them, my body adjusted automatically to leap over the puddle or navigate the root system. I not only became faster, but more confident.
I also enjoyed my run more. Instead of perceiving only roots and twigs and holes, I saw the flicker of songbirds amongst the trees, a splash of color from a woodland blossom, a glitter of water from the nearby stream. I grew to love running in the forest.
The Race of Life
The same often happens when we run the race of life. Instead of fixing our eyes on Christ, we pay attention all the obstacles along our way. We dread the cold puddles of insecurity, failure, and loneliness. We stare at the gnarled roots of mistakes that might trip us and make us look foolish to others. We focus on the clawing branches of sin, hoping that we will avoid what others have not.
But if we just lifted our eyes and looked straight ahead at the path before us, we would find that many of those obstacles would take care of themselves.
Loving the Path
How does this work, in a practical sense? Do not spend so much time avoiding sin, or building your reputation as a Christian, or shrinking away from those things that make you feel insecure.
Accept the path, and simply look at Christ. When you learn to love Him better, you will avoid sin naturally. When you build His reputation, you will share in it. When you ignore your puddles of insecurity, God replaces it with confidence.
The way also blooms with loveliness when we divert our attention from the evil, and see the good. God has filled the path with moments of beauty. We may not stop to examine each one, but even a passing glimpse is sweet to the runner’s spirit.
Lift your eyes. Look ahead. The path is beautiful, and the Savior is at the other end.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Question: What are some other ways to run the race of life well?
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.