A good race

I never really wanted to be any kind of committed athlete before my freshman year in high school. Growing up in an area where athletics were extremely competitive, I knew people who succeeded by holding a mentality of animosity—by hating their competition. Although I enjoyed sports, this left me with a negative view of competition and I didn’t want to be a part of it.

As I entered my freshman year in high school, though, I discovered a sport I absolutely loved: cross-country running. Because I had switched to a new school and was seeing better motives in those around me, I realized that if it was possible for athletes around me to push for excellence, it was also possible for me. I felt spiritually inspired. I had the motivation to work, gained confidence, learned what I could do, and began to excel that year.

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Because of the hard work and success during my freshman year, I went into my sophomore year expecting that the experience would be naturally easier. To be honest, I even started expecting an easy ride through all of my races! Although I knew I would need to work hard, for some reason I didn’t think the season would be challenging and I didn’t feel the strong desire for success that I had before. Cross-country races require you to run for around 20–25 minutes as hard as you can, but I felt absolutely no motivation to run at a pace that required effort. Soon, once I realized I was not running well enough to be competitive, I settled into a routine of not doing my best. I didn’t know why I should bother trying harder or going faster, and questioned the point of running at all. I was miserable.

Every time I ran, I felt like it was a burden—like I was waiting for inspiration that would make it clear why I ran in the first place. The passion I had felt for running during my first season, which was so clearly a quality from God, just wasn’t there. In fact, I was feeling at that time that God was really complicated and that I might never understand Him—like I had to wait until I had everything spiritually “figured out” before I could express God through running again.

I began to realize that my motives for running weren’t very good. Deep down, I knew what the right motives were—a desire to “dwell in the house of the Lord” (Ps. 23:6) by demonstrating strength and freedom and control—but I didn’t feel like I was honestly there in my thinking quite yet, and therefore I didn’t think I deserved to run well.

At the next practice, right before a race day, I sat quietly by a tree, thinking. My coach asked what was up, and I explained how I was waiting for the spiritual understanding that I needed. My coach gently reminded me that I didn’t have to wait for inspiration or put off understanding, because what’s true will always be true—I didn’t have to wait for it to be true. He also reminded me that we’re here to express God every moment, and I realized that I wanted to put my faith into God, infinite spiritual goodness. I knew a spiritual foundation was something that would endure throughout any obstacle, and that this was my real motivation for running.

Once I stopped waiting around to “get” passion, or inspiration, I could just let my light shine.

Coach also shared this idea with the team: “When a bus comes to the bus stop where you’re waiting, you don’t say, ‘Oh, sorry bus, but I don’t think I’m ready for you right now, so I’m gonna wait and see when I feel ready.’ ” I thought of the bus as a race, an opportunity to express God. I had been letting that bus pass me by because I thought I wasn’t ready to express God’s qualities. But once I stopped waiting around to “get” passion, or inspiration, I could just let my light shine.

Later that night, thinking about everything my coach said, I thought to myself: “The only time is now! I don’t ever have to wait. Right here, right now, I can be happy. And that doesn’t mean just laze around and be happy, it means let my light shine and be happy.” I also specifically remember having a healing revelation that night: I suddenly understood that “no power can withstand divine Love” (Science and Health, p. 224). I saw clearly that God, Love, was the only source of true happiness, and that this was something that could never even be touched by anything material. The discomfort I’d been feeling about running just melted away.

I also prayed with this passage about right desires from Science and Health: “Consistent prayer is the desire to do right. Prayer means that we desire to walk and will walk in the light so far as we receive it, even though with bleeding footsteps, and that waiting patiently on the Lord, we will leave our real desires to be rewarded by Him” (pp. 9–10). I knew that I wanted my running to be guided by prayer, but I simply hadn’t realized how much I could do in my thought right now. I hadn’t recognized that God never changes, no matter what we may think of Him, or of what the human picture seems to be. Nothing can be, or ever will be, taken away from His glory and infinity, and this was something I could rejoice in.

Since I turned my thought around, I began to have a different attitude about running in general. I had a new, overwhelming feeling of joy, along with a deep love for my teammates—and my competitors. I was more open to listening for what God had to tell me, rather than theorizing about Him. I felt enlightened and less hesitant. At the next race, I looked at the other runners and felt excited to compete with them, not against them. I went faster because I was in tune with the Truth. I no longer dreaded each hill—I felt excited to conquer it, and just felt really free. It turned out I also achieved a personal record during the race.

After that race, my coach looked at me and said, “It feels good to be who you are, doesn’t it?” To me, that was a reminder that I had always been God’s child and just needed to let my light shine. I was so happy! That evening, my teammates and I played on the kids’ playground near the racecourse and watched the sunset. I will always remember the feelings of joy and gratitude I felt in that moment—feelings that, once I insisted on expressing, also helped me to understand God, His glory, and His spiritual beauty.

Don’t believe the ghost stories
October 31, 2011

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