On Friday night, I was getting ready for dinner when my mom looked through the paper and said, “Hey, there’s a half-marathon in Crystal Lake on Sunday. They’re still accepting sign ups.”
I knew she was joking, I hadn’t been training for a race of that size by any means, but my mind was already in the works. Figuring I could do a Saturday night church service, I quickly decided that I had nothing better planned for Sunday morning, so I said in all seriousness, “Sign me up.” So with less than a forty-eight hour notice, I would be running a half-marathon. I’m either foolish, or completely arrogant sometimes; any other time, I am both.
The race went pretty well despite my lack of training. I held to my strategy of starting as far back as I could and slowly working my way forward. For some reason, passing sixty year olds with breathing tanks made me feel as if I was going faster than I was. By the time mile ten came around and I was entering the fourth quarter of the race, I was feeling surprisingly strong. I hadn’t really run this far before, but something told me my body was going to make it, so I increased my pace and brought the race home with pride.
While nearing the finish line, I thought a bit about my journey as a runner. I started running on an irregular basis about five years ago, and when I say irregular, I mean it. I’ve had times where I took my running extremely seriously, staying on a consistent plan and training to reach a certain goal on a certain date. For every season like this though, I’ve also had three or four where I didn’t run for months, because, well, I just didn’t feel like it. As a runner, I’ve been both super disciplined, non-existent, and anywhere in between. When I finally crossed that finish line Sunday morning though, a thought came to my head.
I never could have done this five years ago, I thought to myself.
I think this probably rings true for most of us, whether we’re runners or not. Whether it’s fitness, relationships, work, or God, we all have those places in our lives where we long for consistency, but we just can’t help being totally inconsistent.
I would love to run everyday, eat right, sign up for races, and stay on a specific training regiment. This is the ideal best thing I could do for myself as a runner, but if I’m honest with myself, some days I just don’t feel like it, or I make sure I get too busy and I can’t find time for it. This happens to all of us in many areas of life, and the temptation in those times is to say to ourselves, “well if I can’t be consistent with it, then I won’t do it at all”. Noble as the thought may sound, I think it’s a bit unrealistic. If I quit everything in my life where I experience inconsistency, then I probably wouldn’t have a career, family, friends, hobbies, a girlfriend, or a blog; and I definitely wouldn’t have a relationship with God. Not only that, but to quit when things aren’t perfect is to rob ourselves of the growth that can be experienced in the midst of inconsistency.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m a huge advocate for personal discipline and hard work, but consistency and discipline are a goal. They are something we work towards, something we develop over time. They may be the best pathway for growth, but they are not a pre-requisite. We cannot allow ourselves to be trapped by the lie that tells us if we lack discipline then growth is not a possibility, because that leads to quitting, and therefore, no growth at all.
I’m an inconsistent runner, but five years ago, there’s no way I could have ran a half-marathon and lived to tell the tale. Day in and day out, I get frustrated with myself for not being more disciplined, and that’s fine, we all get frustrated. Self-deprecation keeps us motivated I guess. What’s important though, is to every now and then take a look back to recognize and celebrate the growth we’ve made in the long run, inconsistent as it may be. This is something very few of us do, but I’m learning just how important it really is. Not only does looking back help us realize that growth truly can happen through inconsistency, but it helps fuel us to become more disciplined in the future, which means experiencing even greater growth.
Moving forward, I hope to run on a more regular basis, and I hope to one day be ready to run a full marathon. For now, my body is telling me to take a few days to rest. More importantly though, I plan on celebrating the growth I’ve made as a runner, even if it hasn’t been perfect. Let us accept our inconsistency, not as a barrier to growth, but as a winding, twisting avenue towards growth. If we expect perfection, we’ll live our lives disappointed, but if we work from where we are, and take time to celebrate where we’ve come from, then we’ll live our lives inspired to keep going to where we will be.
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