Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I completed our first (and likely last!) full marathon. We had been training diligently since September, spending most of our weekends literally running our free time away.
What compelled us to run 26.2 miles willingly, you may ask? It was definitely a bucket list challenge for me. A check-off on the list of life goals. Add that to – graduate college, get married, get a job. Check, Check, check. Run 26 miles when I’m 26 years old. Check.
So, we ventured out to Asheville, NC, ready to complete our bucket list challenge, and ready to proudly sport that 26.2 sticker on the back of my car. Unfortunately for us, God had some less than stellar plans for the weather that day, and let me tell you, 26.2 miles is way less fun in the pouring rain.
But, we DID it. By God’s grace, we both crossed that finish line. And, aside from some (extremely) sore muscles and jello legs, we are no worse for the wear. For me, it was as much of a mental challenge as physical, and I can’t tell you how mental blockades I hit as my body screamed through the grueling miles. Looking back on it now, it already seems a little crazy. Like, how did I finish? Why did I think that would be fun? Do I ever have to run again?? But needless to say, I was pretty proud of it. I put pictures up on Facebook, snapped an artsy collage of my shoes and race day gear on Instagram, and hobbled to work the next day excited to tell my coworkers what I had accomplished that Sunday.
So this weekend, when my husband and I were out on a slow, easy 4-mile loop, we passed a tent and some local racers. A racer turned to us and cheered, “You got this! Looking good,” mistakenly thinking WE were taking part in this particular race. Once we passed him a few yards ahead, we asked what event he was taking part in. He told us it was the Umstead Park 100. 100, you ask?? Yep, 100 MILES. And we just happened to run into him while he was gingerly bobbing through his 52nd mile marker.
BOOM. Me—who just a few weeks ago was feeling so proud of my personal accomplishment of running 26 miles— I was completely affronted. This man who had been running for the past 8 hours, and still had probably 8 more hours to go, was cheering me on. Shoot, now my marathon seemed whimsical, just a walk in the park compared to this man’s challenge.
But why is it that I am so driven by comparison? I wasn’t afraid to brag to my non-runner friends and family about my personal running accomplishment. But compared to someone greater, I felt like my accomplishment had been vastly diminished. Like I could no longer be proud of my achievement. Unfortunately, this is what happens when we compare to the world’s standards.
The world is constantly telling us to GO BIG OR GO HOME. Achieve the next milestone. Just get over one more hump, one more obstacle, one more career upgrade, and you’ll be happy. Unfortunately, Satan plays cruel tricks on us. We need to start using God’s standards, God’s measurements, because in a world of constant change and comparison, we will NEVER add up. Galatians 6: 4-5 states that “Each of you must examine your own actions. Then be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. Assume your own responsibility.” I struggle with this daily, constantly comparing achievements, possessions, social circles, financial successes and relationship bliss. And tell you what, I’m tired of never adding up. It’s exhausting trying to be perfect at everything—physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’d rather let God handle the perfection, molding me in the way he best sees fit. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good acceptable and perfect.”
So let’s pray for each other this week—That God will challenge us to strive for his standards, not the ever changing, ever tiring standards the secular world has set for us. That we may find peace in our personal accomplishments that God has blessed us to pursue.