The starting gun sounded. I propelled myself out of the starting blocks. My legs worked to catch up with my body as I pushed forward. As my head lifted, I set my eyes on the first hurdle.
“Let’s go, Carrie!” I heard my coach yell from across the infield. She knew the 300m hurdles was not my favorite race.
I cleared the 1st hurdle and focused my eyes on the next.
Even strides. Eyes up. Kick.
Even strides. Eyes up.
My lungs started to burn. The third hurdle was coming fast.
My brain and body worked quickly to communicate with each other. My steps were off. I second guessed. My feet tried to adjust, but it was too late.
I landed hard on the track with the hurdle caught under my trail leg. I untangled myself and took inventory. A bloody hand, track burn across my shin. But I was okay.
Tears stung my eyes. I didn’t feel great, but I was okay.
I looked toward the finish and saw the others crossing the finish line. I stood slowly and started running toward hurdle four.
You’re okay. Eyes up. Just finish.
Five hurdles later, I crossed the finish line. The crowd and my race mates cheered. Perhaps their cheers were out of pity, perhaps they were out of admiration, but it didn’t matter to me.
Not finishing didn’t even occur to me.
In the days that followed, a large scab formed on my shin that lasted for weeks. I earned the ever-so-pleasant nickname “Skid” because of the way my body skid across the track after I fell. The bruise on my trail leg seemed to change colors daily.
Even so, I felt proud of myself. I fell but I finished. Of course, my finish didn’t mean anything in terms of personal bests, points for my high school team, or medals. But in my mind, even now, it was a successful race.
Resilient. This is a character trait I would have claimed about my younger self. The girl who knew that falling in a race, or falling off the balance beam meant you simply took a breath and finished. She was resilient.
In recent years, I stepped into several new and exciting challenges. Those challenges have been full of hurdles - some expected, others not. I’ve tripped and stumbled. I’ve fallen and sustained bruises. I’ve been rejected and discouraged. And to be honest, I haven’t been resilient. (I even wrote a blog about God’s grace in my lack of resilience.)
Instead of standing up and continuing on, I sat and cared for my wounds. I blamed God for calling me to do hard things.
God is showing me that He doesn’t want me to give up on the challenges he has called me to. He wants me to press on. I don’t need to win the race of my own timeline or beat anyone else to the finish. He simply desires that I keep pursuing him.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14NIV
Let’s look at 3 things from Philippians 3:14 to help us grow more resilient -
Stand up - “Forgetting what is behind” - I used to think I was supposed to just forget the pain of the past and move on. However, the more time I’ve spent in the context of this passage, the more I have come to understand that God doesn’t want us to ignore the past. He doesn’t want us to run from healing. God wants each of us to bring the lessons we’ve learned in the past, the scars of living, and step forward - imperfections and all. We are not defined by the disappointments of what is behind, but we must make the choice not to stay there. Before we move forward, we must stand up from where we are.
Eyes up - “Straining toward what is ahead” - God desires for us to set our eyes firmly forward. Looking toward the things that matter in light of eternity. In times of defeat, loss, or failure, I often see only the painful place surrounding me. But God says “Lift your eyes, my child. There is more than this moment.” Just as I was taught all those years ago in High School track, my eyes must be up. Looking forward keeps us moving forward.
Press on - “I press on” - The verb “press” indicates there is effort. In fact, Merriam-Webster.com defines the phrase “press on” this way: to continue moving forward in a forceful or steady way. Forceful or steady. It will not be easy. There will be the resistance of hardships. But praise God for his strength (Psalm 18:32)!
Stand up. Eyes up. Press on.