I remember the first time I completed my first long distance run.
It was the Green River Marathon on June 5th of 2010. I had trained and prepped for the race for months.
Race is a loose term by the way; I was really just trying to get my butt across the finish line.
The Green River Marathon course starts in Kent and winds its way along the (you guessed it) Green River out to Elliot Bay and finishes at Spud’s Fish in Chips along Alki Beach in Seattle.
Once I was within two miles of the finish line I remember how desperately I wanted to cross it. My wife was there waiting with our two daughters and they were ready to welcome me.
After what seemed like an eternity I stumbled across the finish line and with a weak smile collapsed in the grass just beyond where others gathered to cheer on their runners.
I didn’t want to move for a long time. I positioned my body to take in views of the beach and water, but I had no desire to do anything else. I just wanted to lie down.
Crossing a finish line often elicits similar responses. Rest is often required after a race.
Big accomplishments in life are often celebrated once completed.
Birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, new babies, promotions, retirements are just some of the big moments worth celebrating.
It’s appropriate to pause and take time to enjoy what’s been done.
The problem I run into is getting stuck in those moments.
I have a real tendency to coast. To take my foot off the accelerator. To rest on my laurels (I don’t really know what this means).
It seems like a pretty common human tendency too.
We all tend to rest, to relax and stop pushing once we’ve reached a certain level of success.
I call this the illusion of the finish line.
I’m not sure there are any finish lines in the life with the exception of the one we all face at the end.
Birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, new babies, promotions, and retirements not meant to be finish lines but checkpoints along the way.
Think about the checkpoints in racing games like Pole Position and Outrun.
The difference is simple.
The finish line is a destination, after them we rest.
Checkpoints are part of the journey, after going through them we keep moving forward.
The problem is we make the mistake of thinking life’s checkpoints are actually finish lines.
We get married. Yay! Then we stop pursuing and dating our spouse and before you know it, “We’ve just grown apart.”
Maybe we should call it the Uncle Rico Syndrome. We get stuck at a point in our life when we were at our best and never want to let it go.
The Bible is full of examples of characters and people who plateaued in life and got stuck.
The Israelites were finally free. Years of slavery in Egypt had ended. They were an 11-day walk away from occupying their promised land when doubt crept in.
Some of the people actually wanted to return Egypt as slaves.
11 days turned into 40 years of wandering the desert. An entire generation missed out on what could have been.
Solomon, the King regarded as the wisest man to ever live fell victim to plateauing.
He built God’s house, then his own, then… just added wife after wife.
Let’s have the attitude of Job. He had it all. Lost it all. And didn’t allow either circumstance to define him. He kept moving forward and in the end God restored him.
Joseph, the dreamer of big dreams: Then a pit, slavery, false rape accusations, forgotten in prison before he finally experienced the fulfillment of his dreams.
As I think back on my first marathon experience I’m reminded of the importance of those checkpoints along the way.
At the start of the race the checkpoints seemed unnecessary. I hardly even looked at them as I ran by. The near mile 10 they became really important.
I didn’t stop by I slowed my pace and enjoy the refreshing juice and water provided.
I would have never met my goal of completely 26.2 miles had I just stopped at a checkpoint. I needed them but I couldn’t afford to misunderstand why they were there.
The same is true in my everyday real life.
I want to enjoy the journey. I want to take it all in.
When I reach a checkpoint I will slow down and regain some strength and energy.
But I’m going to keep moving forward. Through triumph or failure I will keep moving ahead.
Eventually I’ll reach the finish line, only God knows when that is, so until then I keep my feet moving.