Rat Race: a way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power.
Does this sound familiar to you? It seems like we see this exemplified all over the news, social media, conversations between people … But how do we get out of the rat race and into the race Jesus has invited us to join Him in? Hebrews 12:1 says:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us the race marked out for us.”
Setting the Pace
I’ve always been a runner. I joined the cross-country running club when I was 7 years old, and stayed in it all the way to Grade 12. I remember I used to love when there were only 9 girls registered in my age category, because that meant I’d be guaranteed a ribbon. No one else needed to know that 9th place was also last place! So I was never a fast runner, but endurance and consistency were what I specialized in. I remember in high school, my track coach asked me if I could have kept a conversation going during my 3000m run, and I said, “Of course!” … to which she replied, “That means you need to run faster!” … I was so puzzled by this. If I couldn’t talk to someone and felt like I was dying the whole time, what was the point of running?! My coach would try to encourage me by celebrating how every lap around the track, I was within 1 second of every other lap I’d run. I was very consistent. Slow, but consistent. In Grade 12, I got invited to the athletic awards ceremony, as I was going to be winning an award! My mum just about fell over in her chair when I told her … She was the mum at the end of the race, waiting for her kid, while all the other parents had gone home, and the race marshals were cleaning up. How could her kid be winning an athletic award?!
Well, I ended up winning the “All Heart” award … So, in essence, I won an “athletic” award, except it was the award for being nice and positive and never giving up … so not actually anything about my athleticism at all. Haha. Figures.
It’s been 10 years since I graduated, and I still continue to run at least a couple times each week. In case you haven’t picked up on it, running has never been about the competition for me. I’ve just always seen it as a chance to pray, think about new goals, and open my eyes to the creation around me.
Now you might be assuming that a runner like me would never sign up for a race. Well, eventually every runner signs up for a race (yes, even those who, like me, don’t actually care about winning). It’s a fun event, and it’s something to strive towards. I always think it’s so neat to see a bunch of people in one event, who all like doing what I do, and want to do it together. One thing I consistently notice about races however, is that there are always, always, always, people who start out really fast, who I eventually pass around the 6km mark. What often happens is they become too focused on the immediate feeling of passing all these people and they forget they need to save some energy for the entire run. (I would be lying if I said it wasn’t really satisfying to pass those people later.)
So why does any of this matter? Well, over the course of my running career, I’ve noticed races are inevitable … It’s just a matter of deciding which race to run. Do I want to run in the rat race, where I’m constantly trying to triumph over others at their expense, or do I want to run with endurance the race God has marked out for me? Whether you know it or not, you are in one of those races.
Mapping the Route
The rat race talks nothing about endurance; it’s all about struggling and winning in whatever way possible. If you want to imagine it, the people in the rat race are the ones who start the race off quickly, but eventually get burnt out and have to walk. They end up feeling defeated, tired, and like all of their efforts were wasted. They started the race off with the goal of winning, only to quickly be let down by their own body. Ultimately, they lose the race, and they wear it on themselves as something they did wrong. Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like you or someone you know? We live in a world that loves to keep tabs on each other, and sees someone else’s failure as their win. We don’t know how to celebrate each other in the good times, and how to truly be there for each other in the hard times. The art of empathy and compassion are lost, because that would be like taking steps backwards in the race. People stuck in the rat race would rather deflect, ignore, and smooth over the tough things in life, because going deep takes time, and it doesn’t help them. At the end of the rat race there’s no celebration, no prize, and most people probably won’t finish.
God’s race, on the other hand, is different. It’s about letting go of the things that weigh you down; things like money, power, and competition. It’s about releasing those things so you can actually have endurance to run the whole race. God knows money and power can easily trip us up. He knows chasing those things lead to destruction; that’s why He invites us to get rid of those things, and run after Him instead. God doesn’t care which place you come in; He just cares that you finish the race. Life in God’s race is entirely different than the rat race. God’s race is a race where you’re actually supposed to be able to keep a conversation going because we’re meant to do life in community (I should have told my track coach that!). It’s a race where you bring others alongside you, and do the race together. At the end of God’s race, there will be a big celebration (probably with great snacks!), tons of people together, and the ultimate prize of Jesus. Can you imagine?!
What Race are You Running?
If you’ve read this far, it’s probably obvious which race you’d want to be in. I’m assuming you think God’s race sounds like a much more enjoyable race, right? I mean, if you couldn’t tell from my running history, God’s race is much more my speed. The interesting thing though, is that so many of us still choose the rat race. We choose to upload a nice picture of our family to social media, despite the fact that we just yelled at them. We choose to flaunt our money in front of others, whether it’s through the clothes we wear, or literally discussing salaries. When a friend confides something deeply personal, we have the choice to say, “Don’t say things like that,” or, “Tell me more about why you feel that way.” It’s in these little decisions that happen every day that we decide what race we’re in. It’s not complicated, but it is incredibly difficult to notice in the simple things we do each day.
So how do we get out? How do we become the people of God, who actually run a race worth running? I think it really does come down to those simple daily decisions. It means we have to question our motives behind decisions we make, examine areas of our life that we feel we are ahead of others in, and notice areas where we feel we’re lacking. Why do we feel we’re ahead or behind in some areas, and why does it matter? Take those questions and decisions to God, and let Him breathe life into them. Let Him reveal what really matters, and invite Him to take away the “sin that so easily trips us up.” He can do it, if you let Him.
So … what race are you in?
– Written by Rosalind Coben
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