Several Sundays ago, I ran my first 1/2 Marathon. I don't think I was really prepared for it, but I didn't allow any form of doubt to enter my mind at the time even though subconsciously, I was really nervous. Fully aware that my mental and physical threshold for running had been capped at a 6 mile maximum, I wasn't fully sure if I would actually be able to finish.
The marathon started, and as I was running the first few miles, it felt pretty great. I felt the cheers and adrenaline. Close to mile 6, I felt my body getting tired and mind nervously preparing for the next stretch. By the half mile mark, I felt alright - but had to have a pep talk with myself at least 3 times: "Jaimie, pretend like you just didn't run those last 6 miles, and reset your mind as if you're starting your run - NOW. You can do it, you can do it. Just keep moving." I know it sounds impractical and it's a complete trick on the mind, but it worked. My physical body had to adjust to what I had just told myself and as a result, my mind and heart were determined to keep moving. By mile 8, I felt my body tense up but I had my eyes and heart set on the finish line and I pushed through limping the last 2 miles because there was no way I wasn't going to finish the race I started.
As I was running, of course, I had to relate this to "life" and made it applicable to my own set of personal goals. I made my first 13.5 mile run analogous to life. Each milestone, each stage, especially the last stretch of the race was a relevant lesson. We set our goals initially, but unless we push ourselves and commit to them, we will never get there. There's no place to "get to" if we don't set a tangible place we want to reach. It takes work, it takes commitment, it takes each step. "The more vague our goal is, the less power it has" (Bill Johnson).
For every "struggle" or every form of resistance we meet in our relationships, career goals, and personal goals - we have a choice to stop when it get's too hard, or fight for that end result. When we push for a breakthrough, we set new standards for ourselves, increasing our capacity for the next form of resistance or challenge. The last 4 miles were harder and the last 2 were the hardest. My legs were numb and my feet were sore, but I knew I was so close and had to repeat my thought and practice: "step, step step." I saw the finish line and my heart leaped - I sprinted and finally made it, phew.
Sometimes I've thought - the closer I would get to something, the easier it would be by that point. I'm learning in this time in my life, it's been the absolute opposite. As I talk to married friends, many of them share how the toughest struggles happened during their engagement or the first year of their marriage. As I choose my career path, I see how I need to learn and serve those above me with excellence in humility. As I struggle to find the community that I desire to have, I choose to stay with those I've been hurt and disappointed by and vice versa. But I'm realizing, real growth happens sometimes when we feel most stunted. In the midst of our pain. In the midst of the struggle. In the midst of patiently waiting in faith for the things we are believing for. Breakthrough doesn't happen overnight, it's the result of a choice that we make daily to get closer and closer to that finish line. We have a choice to stop right there, change routes, run away, but then we stay stunted. Our circumstances change temporarily, but our character doesn't. Growth hurts like hell sometimes, but it's necessary and beneficial. Each mile, each transition, each milestone brings us closer to that finish line. Just keep moving.
As when my legs were sore and my body was unfamiliar with the level of challenge it was facing, whatever "marathon" we are running in life, spiritually, physically, or mentally, we can keep taking one [metaphorical] step at a time. When we're passionate about something and desire it more than we can explain, we must set our minds on the goal we've committed to and remind ourselves when it get's hard, why it's important to us. If it's worth it, we won't give up. One step at a time- we will get there. Imagine yourself at that finish line, with that medal in your hand saying you've finished strong and well. You did your absolute best and didn't give up. What if you stopped, when you were right there - almost there. That feeling of crossing the finish line is so much better than giving up now, compromising for comfort, for fear, for immediate relief. Don't give in. Don't cave. When doubt or discouragement might creep in, just think of that one next step. Take it. Whatever you are facing - keep pushing - you're almost there.
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.”
― Roman Payne