Monday, July 15, 2013

Settled for 2nd

My senior year of high school, we were the defending state cross country champions. Our team was supposed to win again that year. We were even nationally ranked. Not bad for a bunch of young men from Mississippi. We were a tough (and very skinny) group of runners. One of our teammates was likely to win the whole race. Me and another teammate were ranked high up too.

The race started out in a typical fashion. My teammate sprinted to the front of the pack. I typically eased into a pace and worked my way to the front. Well, this particular race between mile 2 and 3 (it was a 3.1 mile race), I found myself in 2nd place. I looked ahead and knew who was in 1st, though I couldn't see him. I looked back and saw no one either. I had not expected this sort of scenario, especially in the state meet.

During my high school career, I had never felt good enough to beat my teammate. In my mind, if I could hang on to the top five places, then I would be doing good. At that point in the race, I had a decision to make. Would I push to try to catch up with my teammate in 1st place, or hang on to 2nd place. Sadly, I settled for 2nd. Don't get me wrong, 2nd place in the state meet is great, especially with one of the top four finish times overall that year (Classes 1A to 5A).

However, when I finished the race, I found out some good, yet disturbing news. I discovered that I finished behind the winner by less than 1 minute, maybe even less than 30 seconds. My teammate had a bad race due to not feeling well, but since I never saw him, I never tried to catch him. I was feeling great physically, but I had settled mentally with defeat, at least against him. Our team won the championship that day. We had top finishers in 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th. Amazing. We were very excited, but a part of me really struggled with my personal defeat of giving in and "settling."

One of my life metaphors has been that far too often I have settled for less than God's best. My life hasn't been a complete disaster, since I am blessed with an amazing family, friends, etc. But, on numerous occasions, I have let fear, insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, impatience, selfishness, a lack of perseverance, and a weak sense of purpose hinder my ability and willingness to trust God's plans.

It's really quite annoying and disturbing. So, at age 38 in a new city, two years after a major marriage and personal tragedy, and starting over in my career in many ways, I am at a crossroads once again, some 20 years after that championship race. Will I settle for a good, decent life, or will I push for more (i.e. God's best) and not let personal failure hold me back?

Wearing an invisible A has heightened my tendency to "settle." Shame, regret, failure, betrayal - all of these things could hold me back if I let them. However, none of those thoughts and feelings are worth holding on to. Amy and my children deserve more; better. God's name deserves more; better. Putting my stubbornness and determination to work in my favor is worthwhile.

As Dave Ramsey says so well, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." I just finished reading a great book that has sparked my desire to NOT SETTLE. It is called, "Rhinoceros Success," by Scott Alexander. It is short, and to the point, but packs a punch. It spoke to me, like many books in the past, but I am at a different place in my life - a place that allows me to hear it, and hopefully take to heart.

Therefore, I say, "Enough settling. No more! "Lord, set me free. No matter what obstacles come my way, may I never settle for less than Your best. Fill me, change me, strengthen me, transform me, and do for me that which I am unable to do. Make a way when there seems to be no hope."

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.

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