The Competition

The morning was already humid. They all stood together on the gravel road beside the dining hall. Some of the try-hards in the group were stretching but most of the teens and adult counselors stood chatting or in silence. Perhaps I imagined it, but I thought there was a general air of melancholy. I know I was sad.

It was the camp run.


It’s crazy but even as I write this I have this feeling in my stomach. The same feeling I had as my shoes crunched up the gravel to them. Pastor Gable was looking at me and I knew he was formulating some way to bring attention to my utter lack of desire to be there.

I hate running and counselors are not required to run. So why was I trudging towards them in utter dread? The competition.

As we start, the same things happen each time. #1. As I am leaving the starting line, Titus Hall and Joel Hammett finish. #2. We all sprint down that first hill. #3. The walkers try to appear like they don’t mind being left behind.

Kristen taught me the first camp run with her that while sprinting might get you ahead momentarily, it is almost impossible to maintain. She tried to teach me not to compete with the people around me.

The first half of our race, we were passed by nearly everyone. Well, except the 7th grade boys. They had tried to match the older boys, showing off their speed and burning out.

I allowed the others to pass, stifling the temptation to pick up my pace to match theirs. If I did, I would burn out too. This was my race I was running, not theirs.

The older teenage boys and the athletic girls were already in the second half, I forced myself to forget how irritating their easy strides were and cheered them on instead. They weren’t wrong for being faster. That was their race. This was mine.

The second half of the race was a different story. I wanted to stop. I told myself that my body could do this, there is no reason it couldn't, it was my mind that was a wimp. I would keep my pace. I would. I willed myself to do it, even though my mind and feelings screamed that I could not. Kristen gave me tips, not even breathing hard and I felt such appreciation for the fact that she would give up winning just to encourage me. My bad attitude burned out of me.

On the upside, I started to notice with wonder that we were passing people. I had no judgment for them. That was their race, this was mine.

I was almost done. The road seemed impossibly long, breathing didn’t satisfy my lungs and I could see up by the dining hall people watching and making comments. I resisted the urge to increase my pace again to show I could.

Then came the end. I felt adrenaline kick in. My stride lengthened. When I passed my sister, who snapped the inevitable, unflattering photo, I felt relieved. The dread rolled away.

I’m in constant competition. With who? You might ask. The only person I can compete with.

She has the same struggles as me. She has the same advantages. She looks like me.

She is me.

Just like the camp race, in my Christian race, the only person I should overcome is me, my deceptive mind and feelings. I’m not running anyone else’s race. This is my race.

“...let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...”

Set your pace to Jesus. He will run beside you, telling you to ignore criticism and the failures of others, correcting your pride and unlike a fellow runner, He knows the pace you can keep. He is a trainer, pushing you to your limits and beyond, in that scary, uncomfortable place of growth.

The only thing that sounds dangerous is avoiding the run, staying in your cabin to sleep or to do your makeup and hair. The only failure is not taking on yourself for a good, old-fashioned round of dying. Which is exactly what running feels like.

Run the race that is set before you. Don’t compete with those around you. Your pace is different, your struggles are different. Prayer time and Bible study might seem like an act of discipline some days, but that is your daily training to increase your endurance and ability. Joining visitation and the Allentown outreach may seem impossible, witnessing might fill you with dread. ... but that sounds like a run to me.


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Comments 2

  1. Your article was a blessing, the race never ends. Each day has its struggles, joys , discouragement, blessings,
    I don’t know what’s ahead, but I know who walks with me.

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