I'm a sprinter. Not so much in actual running, but in pretty much every other aspect of my life.
I love the challenge of the fast paced project, the big job with the looming deadline, the adrenaline of hosting and planning a party, and the break that's coming at the end of a job well done. I struggle to stay motivated in the marathon kind of tasks that life requires. Just come on over any given day and see how clean my floors may or may not be to see that one for yourself.
I just do better with the sprints... the "okay, today is the day to clean the entire house" kind of goals. (And yes, I have plenty of those days, so while you may not be able to eat off my floors, it is totally livable.) I will go to bed completely exhausted but completely satisfied and with a completely clean house, because that was my sprint challenge, and I accomplished it. Sure, I'm talking about chores here, but what about the bigger things? The same personality that attacks housework like it's a sprint, also loves the bigger challenges, the God-sized and inspired challenges. If you need a girl to volunteer to head up your next big fundraiser or throw a great dinner party or help bring an event to town, I'm your girl. I thrive on planning and prepping for the upcoming challenge, and am in heaven during the execution of the event.
But... after it's done, there's a surprising emotion that always rears it's ugly head. It's the let down phase. The "what now?" that results in a momentary loss of identity or drive to do much of anything. Anyone else with me in this?
In that let down phase, it's easy for me to lose focus on the marathon type activities that should always be given importance. I know I'm not alone in this because I have several friends with similar personalities. I have a few that have mastered the house cleaning schedule - you know the bathrooms on Monday, floors on Tuesday, and so on - so I know it's possible to be wired that way. I'm just not, and that's just fine. For the rest of us, I see friends go through the same adrenaline rush of the big event followed by a season of melancholy when it's over. I see the women in my Bible study group pull out all the stops to help a fellow sister in need, or rally to pull off a huge service project, but struggle to complete the daily homework involved in a couple month long study. I recognize the traits because I know them so well in my own life. In those in-between, marathon running phases of life, I struggle... with my identity in Christ, my purpose, with prioritizing where I should spend my efforts when there's not a big, shiny focal point.
It dawned on me the other morning as I was thinking through this aspect of my personality, that the answer of what to do in our breaks between sprints is pretty well defined for us. We don't have to walk around in a fog, feeling lost with no sense of direction. Scripture has so many places where the Christian life is paralleled to running a race - and not the sprint kind either. It can't be a coincidence that this topic comes up over and over in the Word... I'm not the only one who struggles with how to do marathon living, and God knows that!
So, what does that look like in a practical, every day kind of way? What are those things we can't afford to take a break from? Those things, those marathon kind of things, are what keep us grounded, remind us of who we are in Christ, refresh us and give us the inspiration and passion to complete the next sprint.
Draw Near To God
The times I've felt the most disconnected, like I was wandering aimlessly, have coincided with when I had become lax in the time devoted to spending with God - my quiet time. Hebrews says to draw near to God, with a sincere heart, full assurance in faith, and with an unshakable hope. We do that best by being in the Word and spending time in prayer.
This doesn't mean number of days of the week you are volunteering up at church or involved in activities. This means, get in the Word, and with no other agenda that just reading what God inspired. Just read to learn more about Him, to examine our hearts and grow in faith.
There are just too many things to pray about to not be faithful in prayer! Pray for others in their time of need; for the struggles in our own lives; with thanksgiving for the things He has done thus far and will continue to do; and just to hear from Him. When we pray, how often are we just quiet, in a spirit of reverence and awe that we get to personally talk with God Almighty? It's a powerful experience to just sit in His presence.
Meet with and Encourage One Another to Continue in Love and Good Deeds
We need accountability and we need friendships that will "do life" with us. Whether this is done formally as part of an organized Bible study group or informally within friendships ( I personally seek this in both), we all need encouragement and trusted friends who will hold us accountable. When we are in our let down phases, we need to draw energy from others that are in the midst of their sprints. We need to support and cheer on those that are immersed up to their eyes to keep doing God's work. And we needs to stay focused on a spirit of servitude. It's easy to let those things slide if we don't have a group to hold us accountable and encourage us. We need to be obedient to His word and honor the blessings He has given us, by serving and caring for others.
Enjoy the Season of Rest
After we have spent time in God's presence - in His Word and in prayer; after we have encouraged one another to continue in service to Him; then rest. Enjoy the rest between the big projects. The break is a season of resting and a gift in itself - even if it makes a little antsy. When the next God-inspired project or task comes our way, we'll be ready for it - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Drawing near to God, Encouraging one another to continue on with love and good deeds, Enjoy the rest... This is how we stay focused and grounded in our breaks between the sprints. This is the marathon living we have to discipline ourselves to be consistent with. This is where we should spend our efforts and energy when we don't have that big project to focus on. This is where we find life, purpose, satisfaction and the motivation to just keep running.