Training for the 5k
My husband Matt, my younger brother Josh, and I decided we would try to run a 5k in late September of this year. I eagerly began our training regimen (appropriately called, “Couch to 5K”) in early August, downloaded an app to help me stick to a plan, and signed us up for the “I Love the 90’s 5k.” I thought this was going to be all about getting in shape. What I didn’t know was that God was going to teach me a whole lot about keeping score.
I was feeling good. I had it all together, was totally on top of this running thing, and glided through the first few runs with ease. I could feel the Gameboy Finisher Medal hanging around my neck already.
But something happened about week four or five of our training. We were running at our local Greenway and I barely huffed out the phrase, “I have to stop” as I stopped jogging and started walking about 6 minutes shy of our goal for the day. Matt, being the human running machine that he is, looked back at me over his shoulder and said, “No! You can do it!” But I couldn’t.
I shook my head, sweat dripping down my forehead, and hung my head in shame as I walked for the next minute and a half before barely finishing the run at the slowest jogging pace known to man. On my right was a creek and I swear I saw two turtles high-fiving each other as they lapped me.
But my mom? She was holding our son Henry at the finish line and gave me a verbal pat on the back. “Great job! You’ll be ready by race day!”
But I didn’t feel great at all. I mentally beat myself up for having to walk for a minute and a half. On the ride home, as I continued to silently berate myself for my weakness, I realized something. Who handed out a medal to me at the end of that jog for finishing? No one. Who was going to put my name on a leaderboard for completing a whole jog without stopping? No one. Who was keeping score and who was giving me a trophy? No one. Except me.
Who is keeping score?
I started running because it was a great way to get back in shape, not to look perfect or be the best. But here I was, acting as if someone was handing out trophies for my performance, when in reality I was the only one keeping track. So I made a promise to myself. I would do my best and try to stop keeping score.
As I made this promise, I could feel God give me a nudge. But don’t you always keep score? I felt Him say to me. And I knew exactly what He meant.
How many times have I mentally kept score of how many Bible studies I attend, how many church services skipped, how many Bible verses I have memorized? How often have I kept track of exactly where I stood in my spiritual life by measuring myself against everyone around me to make sure I’m in good standing?
I realized I’ve been guilty of this for far too long. I’ve been acting like someone is handing out medals every time I agree to lead a small group, serve at church, or create a streak of days I’ve read my Bible.
I’ve been acting like God is keeping score, yet tallying only those times when I fall short.
Be the Best!
My weakness? I always want to be the best.
Too often, I keep a tally mentally for everyone around me too, just to make sure I’m a little higher on the Christian totem pole than they are. Why? So I can continue to feel good and worthy as a Christian. It’s almost embarrassing for me to admit, but I do. Because if I fall short in some area of Christian ritual I’ve decided is necessary, I must make sure I’m at least ahead of the crowd that surrounds me.
Today, as I look back at myself huffing and puffing along the Greenway, I realize that keeping score keeps me from living in the freedom gifted to me.
So today, no more keeping score. It’s time to run life’s race without fretting over medals. I won’t live up to my own Christian expectations all the time, but maybe I don’t need them as much as I thought. I won’t be perfect in the eyes of myself or others, but I hope I’m real and transparent. That’s better anyway.
When We Stop Keeping Score, We Win Together
On that day on the Greenway, when I finally stopped to give myself a break, I spent so much mental energy beating myself up over my lost (imaginary!) medal, I didn’t even notice something very important.
Because when I stopped running, my younger brother huffed to a stop too, red in the face and exhausted. I could see he was struggling, but he was trying so hard to keep up with me and Matt, he was over-exerting himself. When I stopped, he stopped. We completed our walk break, then as we finished our jog, Josh exclaimed, “We did it!” And he was right. Because we stopped together, we finished together. While I was beating myself up over our mutual walk break, I missed the big picture. When we stop keeping score, we invite people to join us in our realness and vulnerability. When we act like someone is handing out medals, we leave people who matter in the dust, huffing and puffing nearby, desperately trying to keep up while being miserable the whole time.
When we stop keeping score, we get to win. Together.
With Great Joy,