One month shy of my 43rd birthday, I did something I’ve never done before. Ever. Like, in my whole life.
I ran a race. An official 5K, with thousands of other people. And I actually ran the race (well, jogged—but in my world, the two are the same). And I actually finished. Not in record time, but under 40 minutes, which was good enough to put me almost in the top half of participants.
I go to a church of marathon runners. On any given Sunday, if the pastor asked the congregation how many had run some kind of ridiculously long race, hands would go up all over the place. These are the kind of people who have as their life verse the one about running the race, keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus, with the great cloud of witnesses cheering them on. You know the one I’m talking about.
Let me be clear. I am not one of them. My favorite part of that passage is the phrase about God being the author and finisher (or “editor,” as I like to think of it) of my faith. (I’m a writer, not a runner. Of course that would be my favorite part.)
Let me clarify some more, in case you’re not getting this. I don’t run races. I have a bad foot. I’m slow. I don’t like to run outside. I’m afraid of doing things I don’t think I can do.
Ouch. Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. The uncomfortable story behind the story, so to speak. It wasn’t just all those physical limitations that have kept me from doing something I’ve always wanted to do.
It was fear.
It’s silly, really, this tendency of mine to avoid hard things. Silly, but life-long.
It’s not like I’ve never done anything difficult. I was an honors student in high school and college. I’ve written two books published by bona fide publishers. I completed the paperwork that resulted in two successful international adoptions. None of that was rocket science, but it did take considerable effort.
But too often, I took the easy way. I made decisions about what I was and wasn’t going to do based on whether or not I thought I could do it. And if it seemed too hard—if I didn’t think I could—I didn’t.
It’s something I’ve been forced to admit to myself and to others lately. It’s come into sharper focus for me as I observe people in my house who do not shy away from hard things, who do not give up at the first sign of struggle, who do not allow fear to rule. I greatly admire these dear ones who possess such tenacity, even as it exposes a character flaw in me.
But here’s the thing. There’s something about this incriminating piece of self awareness that literally explodes me into action: the thought that my daughters might pick up this debilitating pattern from me.
Not on my watch. Not if I can help it.
It’s not about me and my fears anymore. It’s about them.
So when my younger daughter Molly recruited me to participate in her school running club last fall, I could hardly say no.
There’s more to this story…look for Part II later this week.