Athletics possessed my deepest affection as a younger woman. The challenge and intensity of competition thrilled me. I was driven to push limits and anticipate pain as a strange intoxication. My identity prided on mental and physical toughness. Athletes with superior abilities squashed any delusions of grandeur, but my private condolence was to work harder, train longer, and dig deeper than my counterparts.
In the preseason of my third year playing university basketball, I was consumed with the routines of weight lifting, shooting practice, improving my maximum oxygen uptake, and of course, playing the game. One evening, my coach told my team to run ten kilometers at the close of our two-hour practice. I remember satisfaction washing over me as I anticipated her affirmation for my grit.
As the run began, I delighted in the cadence of my feet pounding the road. The circular motion of heel strike to propulsion to recovery swing pleased my biomechanical thirst. The output of my muscles equipped by the heavy work of my lungs in each breath. I was made for this. I was mentally prepared for this. I would catch my teammates soon enough.
With the final approach in sight, I’d passed all but one person. My coach stood at the end of the course and I longed to impress her. I reached deep inside and sprinted hard to the end. The climax of effort displayed a pleasing self-portrait.
As I crossed the finish line, my coach hollered at me, “Lisa, if you’ve got that much energy left at the end of all this, you’ve been slacking the whole time!” My mind reeled. My face burned. She was impossible to please. Her opinion screeched against mine like fingernails on a chalkboard. I expected to communicate I was a hard worker, not a slacker!
Her poignant words haunted. I toyed with them, turned them over and tried to prove their fraudulence. My ego wanted no part of her perspective, but over time, the truth in her utterance clamored for my attention.
I lifted weights earlier in the day, practiced for two hours and ran ten kilometers. If I’d given everything I had in those workouts, I would’ve been too tired to run that well and sprint that hard. If I’d pushed to my limits like I claimed in the annals of my inner dialogue, I wouldn’t have been resourced to give so much at the end.
My sprint evidenced great endurance to me, but my coach concluded I’d been holding back all along. I compared myself to the rest of my teammates and perceived I was superior, but to my coach, the exhaustion that characterized their performances was evidence of unrestrained effort. Deceived, I exchanged truth for a stroke of my ego. I built a reserve to be tapped only when praise awaited. True grit was traded for a little dust on my mask.
I don’t want to be a Christian who makes this same mistake. To meet God face to face only to have Him call my bluff, would be devastating. I don’t want to keep a stash of spiritual umpf so I can look good if God calls on me. I’d hate to make a fantasy out of who I am or what I’m doing so I feel better about my inadequacies.
I want my faith in Christ to be genuine. I desire to give all I’ve got to Him with no regard for what comes next. I chastise myself to pour out with abandon because I’m convinced He will deposit new rations as needed. I long to run hard from the starting line. To engage with Him moment by moment, would allow me to take hold of what is, rather than my pretention.
God will not be wowed by a token sprint here or there. He urges us to give it all. He asks us to trust Him and His provision so fully, that by faith, we give every bit of ourselves—heart, mind, soul, and strength—all the way through this life He planned for us.
In Matt 22:37 NIV, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”