What a great word as we are beginning Cross Country season again.
My kids are blessed to be part of the most encouraging team in the nation. (I'm not exaggerating.)
Coaches, parents, and any athlete who is not currently running-- all of them line the course to cheer for every team member.
Even the very last one.
At 6'1" and 200 pounds, my son is built more like a linebacker rather than a runner, so he is occasionally the last finisher from our boys' team. I'm so grateful for the cheering section that is always there for him!
The beauty of Cross Country is that although every race has a first place finisher, every athlete competes primarily against himself. It's not just about did you win, but did you improve.
I love Cross Country because you can be last and still have a victory!
Last night even as he charged across the finish as the last man on the team over the line, my son had victory--because his time was a full two minutes faster than his previous race.
Even so, the sport of Cross Country is not an individual sport because each runner is also part of a TEAM. Although he competes against himself, every runner's effort contributes to the success of the team.
It reminds me of The Race of which Paul speaks in Scripture: the spiritual one.
Like running, spiritual success requires hard training, rest, and nourishment. (And if I attempted to cover all of that, this would not be a five minute writing...)
Like running, spiritual success should be measured in such a way that growth is a victory.
I'm so grateful for coaches who teach through sports what Christ models in the spiritual realm. They have a unique training plan for every athlete based on that athlete's needs, experience and fitness. It's not a one-size-fits-all work-out. They hold the runners accountable for doing the work they prescribe, and they emphasize how their individual efforts improve the entire team.
Best of all, they get just as excited over a victory for the last man across the line, when he is running with his whole heart, as they do the first.
Oh, Lord, let me live this way as I seek to be a disciple who makes disciples. Let me see each person as a unique creation with a unique history. Let me love them where they are at and encourage them to move deeper into You. Let me help show them how their efforts and progress contribute to the success of Your Body and Your mission in this world. Above all, let me be thrilled for the progress of the one who may be last, but who is running hard after You.
In my own walk, let me measure myself not by how I compare to others, but by how much I am growing to look like You.
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