Friday, February 25, 2011

What Defines You?

The great debate began for me the day before our half marathon – wear the Garmin watch or not. Part of me wanted to run free, free of numbers, times, distances. Part of me wanted to make sure that I was running smart, and the other part of me wanted to make sure that I was running fast. I had a goal time. In order to reach that goal, I had to maintain a certain pace. Minutes before walking out to the race, I put on the Garmin. Freedom is not something I am especially good at; that morning, freedom was too risky!

Throughout the race, I was delighted by the awesome scenery and the supportive crowds cheering us on. The crowds’ cheers made me feel like a champion. Despite that, I found myself constantly looking down at that Garmin watch to see if I was performing up to my standard. Most of the race, I was disappointed in my pace realizing that I was not on track to meet my goal. Occasionally, I was pleased with myself feeling like I was measuring up, but that never lasted long as I saw my goal become more and more unattainable.

In the Donna marathon and half marathon, the last bridge is the final great hurdle. As you run, it feels like you are headed up forever. I was struggling, struggling not just to keep pace but struggling to keep going. In the midst of that struggle, I kept looking at the Garmin. At this point, I knew that I wouldn’t reach my race goal. Knowing that, how did I press on with the race? Everything within me said you failed. Walk. Quit. This hurts too much. You didn’t make the goal so why continue the torture of this climb. There was a silent battle going on inside of my mind.

In the midst of that silent battle, God asked me a question: “What defines you?” Does this race define you? If you make the goal, are you then good enough? I wrestled with this question and began doing some soul searching of the many ways I have defined myself: athlete, coach, mother, wife. The list can go on and on as I have sought to prove my worth as a person through my performance. On that bridge, God asked if I could let Him define me. God asked if I could take my goals and entrust them to Him. He had the audacity to even ask for my race. Struggling, I had no other option but to give it to Him.

That decision to give God the race was the highlight of my run. God came alongside of me and assured me that I had met the goal, His goal, for my race. He was able and willing to define me. Fortunately, His definition was so much greater than my goal time. I was flooded with peace. My bodily challenge did not go away. The bridge remained and there was still another mile to run once that bridge was crossed. But, I ran differently. I didn’t look at the Garmin anymore. I kept talking to my daddy, the one who chose me, loved me and defined me.

A man had been running in front of me just within my view for many miles. On the back of his shirt was the sign of the Christian fish with the cross in it. The top of the shirt posed the question: “Why do you run?” I smiled and told God that I run because I can feel His presence when I do. It is a gift, and I am called to run with freedom and joy in the race that is set before me.

Our training group had just concluded a Bible study on Ephesians the day before the race. As I looked back on that book of the Bible, I read chapter 2 verses 8 and 9 with new understanding:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

All I am and all I have is a gift from God. Whether I meet my half marathon goal of not, I am still “his workmanship” or as the New Living translation writes, “his masterpiece”. What an amazing way to have God describe me! When I talked to my children about what this means, each had wonderful thoughts to share. My youngest child, Saxon, had a great insight at the end of our conversation: “Mom, we are awesomely made!” My heart swelled. Saxon got it. We are awesomely made and we are awesomely loved.

Now, if I can live as if that were true. No race should define me. My appearance does not define me. My performance does not define me. All the good things in my life do not define me. God defines me. He is the Creator; He is the King. That Creator and King decided to call me his daughter. In fact, I am His masterpiece--awesomely made!