In the Break Between the Sprints

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?

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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!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
— Hebrews 12:1-2a
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.
— Philippians 3:12-14

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.

Therefore brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most High Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswerving to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:19-25

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.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Pray without ceasing.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
— Matthew 25:35-40

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.

Then He [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’
— Mark 2:27

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.