A few months back I made a commitment to my wife, and publicly shared it through this blog, that I was planning to run a half marathon with Traci in the fall. At the time, I had nine months to prepare for this race. Keep in mind that when I made this announcement, I had never run more than one mile at any one time in my life and I have never particularly enjoyed running.
Today I’m at the five month mark and I’m glad to say I’ve been running. Last week I had my longest single run for distance, at 3.57 miles, and little by little I’m stretching out the distance I am able to run. My goal is that when the 13.1 mile event rolls around, I’ll be strong enough to run the whole time, even if it’s at a snail’s pace down the stretch.
Now imagine if I had done nothing since making my announcement. Imagine race day is tomorrow and today I decide to go buy a pair of shoes, pick out a good running shirt and then head to the starting line in the morning to run my first half marathon. Is there any chance I’ll run the whole 13.1 miles? Of course not! I can tell you right now I don’t even know if I would finish the event if I had to walk it. I’d be too overwhelmed with shame and humiliation being passed by those sweet little old ladies who power walk from start to finish, that I’d pull up at the five mile mark, grab my hamstring and pretend I was hurt!
If I choose to do nothing leading up to the race, I will lose out on the joy of finishing, the joy of seeing my hard work pay off and most importantly, the joy of experiencing the journey leading up to the race.
I know a lot of people who are doing nothing today. They look at others who are crossing the finish line and they wish they had prepared for the race, they see others sharing in an accomplishment and they long to be included. Even more, they get that they don’t have the shared experience everyone else is talking about, and they desperately want to be included. But when it was time to start, they did nothing.
A few years ago as a youth pastor, I led my students on a series of summer mission trips. In back-to-back-to-back weeks, we visited inner city Philadelphia, we worked with a church outside of Eugene, Oregon and then ran a community event in our own town. We talked about these three trips for months and started doing homework and fund raising five months before the trips started.
I had one student who really wanted to go. I met with the family and we talked about him participating in the trips, and I handed them the schedule for our training which included some Bible reading, attending a few training sessions together and several fund raising goals. This young man was excited to go!
A month later, he had not attended any training events (there had been at least one, and maybe two by that time) and had done none of the required fundraising. Two months later the same. At three months, I met with him and his family again, and informed him that he would not be allowed to participate in any of the trips.
He was crushed. His mom pleaded with me to let him go, but he hadn’t done the work, and it would have been unfair to the other team members if he skated free while the others had worked so hard. I also felt like his lack of movement revealed some character issues going on in his heart, so he had to sit this one out.
When our summer trip was over, those that had traveled were changed people. They had bonded together as a team and we had shard experiences that included fun service projects, not-so-fun service projects, long travel days, funny stories, tearful stories, sweet moments of ministry and painful stories of messing up. But all of it combined to make a pretty amazing summer that really drew the team together. But this young man was on the outside looking in because he did nothing when it was time to start preparing.
Most people want to be ready when the time comes for them to experience a truly remarkable moment. Honestly, don’t we all want to be in the right place at the right time when that special thing happens? But the reality is that many people aren’t doing what is necessary in order to be ready when that event happens, or when that relationship is ready to blossom. Instead, they’ve been doing nothing, they’ve not given any real direction for their lives and so they sit idly by while others enjoy the experiences they crave.
Don’t get wrong. I’m not suggesting they are doing “nothing” in a literal sense (although there is that crowd, too!) sometimes these individuals are the busiest people I know. Sometimes they can be so busy living life at a frantic pace that they don’t have time to focus on the goals, dreams and future that they want. They make excuses like, “I don’t have time to....” or “I’m too busy to...” and so on. (Oddly, the most successful Overboard people I know never talk about lacking time or being too busy and they always seem to be in the right place at the right time.)
What are you doing to be in the race today? How are you preparing? When I read the Bible it is so clear that God is looking for men and women who are doing the right thing, who are standing in the right place, who have already entered the race even though they may not know where it’s going. He picks the shepherd boys, not the mighty warriors, to bring down the giants. He chooses the strong and wise women to preserve kingdoms. He picks righteous and faithful old men to start nations. He chose a gracious and humble woman to give birth to the world’s Savior.
David, Deborah, Abraham, Mary -- and the list goes on and on -- weren’t looking to become what God ultimately used them for, but they had started! They had chosen to follow God each day, to stay connected to Him, to be readers and doers of the Word so that when the time came they were ready. When God called them in to action, they had already been practicing and they ran the race set out for them.
I wonder how many warriors watched 13-year-old shepherd boy David kill Goliath, and think, “I wish I had been that brave!” How many women watched Deborah lead Israel to victory and think, “I want to be like her!” David and Deborah weren’t better than anyone else, they were just ready. And if you want to experience the thrill of the Overboard Life, you have to do something to move you out of the boat today!
How is your preparation going? How are you doing in practicing your running today? Are you moving toward something, or are you so busy (or so lazy) that you’re actually doing nothing that will move you closer to your goal of being a better parent or spouse, a more faithful servant or better-prepared teacher? Whatever God-sized dreams and goals you have, the fulfillment of those begins the day you start moving. Dreams become reality when you work on becoming who God wants you to be, so that you can do what He wants you to do. When you get up extra early to spend time with Him and His Word. When you stay up a little extra late to finish the day’s work. When you start using your gifts to serve others and not yourself. When you take a moment to look up from the daily grind and enjoy the world around you. When you stop staring at those who are out of the boat and on the water, and jump out to join them.
I’ve yet to meet the person doing nothing who is happy, fulfilled, overflowing with joy and begging others to join the in their life’s journey and experiences. Quite the contrary. The meanest, saddest, most entitled and selfish people I know are doing nothing. They aren’t even cheering others on in the race, they’re at home angry about the noise that’s disturbing their slumber. I’ve had seasons of my life where I was very busy doing nothing, and I pray that in the second half of my life, I will have many fewer of those moments.
We don’t always know where God will take us while on this wild journey of life. But we do know this: He is working and moving, and He is calling for us to join Him. It’s not about being perfect, but it is about being in process, about growing, trusting, following and serving while stepping into the race. Like Peter in Matthew 14, Jesus is out there on the water inviting us to join Him. Will you be like Peter who had prepared himself for that moment so that he was ready to jump? Or will you be like the other 11 disciples who sat in the boat and watched?
I hope I jump every time. I’d rather fail miserably on the water than live another day, comfortably, doing nothing in the boat. How about you?
37 down, 3 to go!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!