Start and Finish. Lessons in Perseverance

Uncategorized Jul 30, 2018

Much of our success or failure in life depends on how well we start and finish.

“Start and finish. This is your race, no one else’s”

These were the words of a friend spoken to me last summer when I rode in my first bike race.

This race would not be a big deal to some people, but I am a 40 something, overweight, mother of 4 who has never done a race of any kind, ever. I didn't see myself as the kind of gal with a number on her shirt, lined up with top notch athletes at a starting line. 

It was pretty intimidating. 

I trained for this event, but when I lined up that day, I began to wonder if I had done enough. I rode in our valley that nestles right up against some majestic mountains. Our back roads wind around beautiful farms with cows grazing and corn swaying in the wind. Most importantly, you should know, that all of these roads are flat as pancakes.  

Race day was all so exciting. I was doing this! But once we rounded the first corner, I realized something very disturbing. This was not going to be a flat ride. 

 In fact, there was going to be about 420 meters of hill climb.

 I was not prepared for this and I knew right then that I was in trouble.

 I had not trained properly. 

 I got about halfway through, I had just turned another corner and stared up yet another big hill and thought, “I can’t. I am spent”. 

 Thankfully there was a rest stop there with drinks and some energy boosting snacks. I stood there contemplating my options: I could quit, or I could keep going. 

 That was it. Two options: quit or finish.  

 I am not a quitter...So, there you have it. I had to finish. 

 When I got back on my bike it was an immediate climb up the biggest hill I had faced yet.  At that moment my husband came back to check on me and I looked at him and said through gritted teeth, “If I have to CRAWL across that finish line, I am FINISHING”. 

 And I did.

I want to share a few lessons with you that I learned about overcoming while I was doing that race. 

Training matters: 

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

"Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!"

 I felt like I had trained, but I hadn’t trained on hills. That was a problem. The hills were hard and I was not ready for them. 

 That race could have been so much easier if I had prepared properly.

 Life is like this - You don’t know what is going to get thrown at you until you get out on the course.

 Jesus said it best: 

 Matthew 7:24-27

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

This tells me that storms are inevitable, but the foundation is a choice. 

 I had no idea when I was in my early 20’s what kinds of storms life would bring. 

 I couldn't have known that by the time I hit 40 I would have seen most of my friends get burned in a nasty church blow up. Many of those friends were so damaged that, to this day, they vow they will never darken the door of another church. That cycle repeated a couple of times. Different churches, different issues, often leaders making choices that would cause a whole generation of young people to question their faith.  It grieves my heart each time a church goes through a split, a controversy or a leadership failure because a whole swath of people, many of them friends, get disillusioned and walk away. 

Storms in my personal life would bring their own challenges. I would wait until I was 33 to get married and then one week after we got engaged my mom would be diagnosed with terminal cancer. My husband and I would face a battle with infertility for 6 years before we received our first child through adoption and then go on to have three more miracle children. 

The storms came but there were also the day to day issues that wear a person out like death by 1,000 paper cuts.

 I am not sure I understood when I started out in leadership how long the road would feel or how many quality decisions would be required in order for me to live a life I was proud of and, more importantly, a life that would please and honour God.

Leadership is not an easy road. You can’t see around most corners. The only thing you can do is train and get your foundations established so you don’t get blown out by the storms. 

 In order to survive, you need to decide who you will be before you hit the course. 

Have you ever sat down and said “This is the person I am?” If you do that, most of your decisions are made for you. 

Like my bike race: I had decided long ago that I wasn’t a quitter, so quitting really wasn’t an option. All that was left was finishing.

Do you have a personal list of do’s and don’ts? Not external expectations that others have put on you, but your own list? 

What would it say? 

I once heard a story about a young lady on a plane. She sat down next to a business man and they struck up a conversation. One thing led to another and the man propositioned her. “If I gave you a million dollars, would you come back to my hotel and spend the night with me?” Incredulous, she said an emphatic no. He continued to talk to her and wore her down. She thought of how much she needed that money, how different her life would be. She finally said yes. As they landed he said, “Actually, I don’t have a million dollars. Would you do it for $20.00?” She was horrified and said “What kind of woman do you think I am?” To which he replied, “What kind of person you are has already been determined. Now we are just haggling over price.“

Would you ever sell out? Would you ever trade your integrity for a moment of relief or pleasure? 

If you are going to finish, your integrity needs to be established ahead of time, not when the opportunity presents itself. 

It is natural to think that these decisions need to revolve around our sexual life, and those are important for sure. But there are more…

How will you handle discouragement? 

Delay? 

Failure? 

Success? 

Are you kind? Always? 

Do you care about everyone or just the ones who can help you or get you ahead? 

Are you secure in your relationship with Jesus? Is He really all that matters to you? 

How will you handle jealousy and comparison when others get what you wanted:  promotion, a relationship, material things?

Are you honest? 

Patient? 

Will you ever give in to the feeling that you have arrived? 

Will you be diligent to keep learning, growing, changing? 

What does your faith life look like when the lights are off? 

Who you are in the dark will determine how you handle the light

Community matters

In short, you need to build your tribe.

Who are the people in your life that really know what is going on with you?  

My husband says it like this: Who are your 6? 

Each of us, when we die, will need 6 people to carry our casket. It sounds kind of morbid but think about it. 

Who helps carry you in life?

Who could you trust with the weight of your life? 

Who have you welcomed into your life to ask you hard questions? 

Who are you really, really honest with?

Who knows when you are fading or not being transparent?

Who gets up in your face when you are being less than what you are capable of? 

You need to invite these people into your life. They won’t do it without your permission. 

My husband, Shawn, is an avid biker. He has done all sorts of amazing rides. 50 km is a warm-up for him. Nothing. 

He took on the challenge of getting me through that 50km anyway because he knew I needed it and, God bless him, I am a GRUMPY exerciser. 

We were out one night for a ride and we hit about 40 km. It was the first time I had ever ridden that far so I was pretty proud of myself. My plan was to coast for the last 10 km and I was already dreaming about getting home and putting my feet up.

At that moment Shawn came alongside of me and said, “At the next street sign I want you to kick it. Ride as fast and as hard as you can.” 

“No!” was my immediate reply.

 I was so mad at him. Couldn’t he see how hard I had worked? I deserved a break now. How does a girl get some credit around here?  

 He just looked at me and rode off. 

 I wrestled with myself for about 3 minutes and then I did what he said. I sprinted when I didn’t think I could go another inch. 

 I cannot explain the feeling of accomplishment that moment gave me. I didn’t know I could do it, but HE did. 

That is what community does for us.

We need encouragers, yes, but we also need coaches who know what we are capable of, even when we don’t.

I had this exact same experience the first time I was asked to preach on a Sunday morning at a church that was pretty clear they didn’t want women speaking.  The intimidation was so real, it was suffocating. 

My pastor at the time looked at me and said, “We need you, Keri. We need your voice. Don’t quit now.” 

 I had to stare down fear in a big way, flex the muscles of 1,000 good decisions made in the dark and stand in that pulpit, authorized and ready to preach the Word of God. 

But first I had to get over myself. And it took another human to help me get there. 

You need it, I need it. 

Storms are coming. You cannot make it alone.

You need to build your tribe before you set out. Tell them all about you: what you want, where you want to go, what stops you, what you are afraid of, what you struggle with. All of it. 

Then invite them to push you. 

Find the ones who will stay, even when you push back. 

Find the ones who will not let you be less than who you are supposed to be. 

I have a friend who finds me when I am not living up to my potential. “What is up with you?” she will ask “Where are you? Your light is dim and your fire is going out.”  I can fool almost everyone else, but not her. 

When you are the leader, you are the one coaching, leading, listening, but you will need people to do that for you too. You cannot make it without a community. 

Don’t ever, ever give in to the lie that leaders can’t have friends. It is complicated, for sure, to find out where your leadership ends and where the friendship begins, but it is worth the messy work to make sure you aren’t alone. 

Finishing matters

Whenever you tell people that you are going to do something you build in a sense of accountability. 

“This is your race, no one else’s. Start and finish. That is all that matters. Start and finish.” – that was the encouragement from my friend that I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

At the time, I smiled and thought “that is nice of her to think of me”. Little did I know how much her words would mean to me. 

Guess what I repeated to myself on every hill and every push of my pedals? 

This is my race, no one else’s. Start and finish. 

With every person that passed me:  

This is my race, no one else’s. Start and finish. 

When I wanted to quit:

This is my race, no one else’s. Start and finish. 

I repeated it when I hit the biggest hill toward the end of the race. I thought all of the big hills were at the beginning so I was frustrated when I had to get off halfway and walk my bike yet again. 

This is my race, no one else’s. Start and finish. 

Then, finally, I said it through a smile when I hit the last hill, and it was downhill! It was so steep and, after climbing for so long, I could only smile, cry and yell as I raced down at 60 km/hour. 

Then it was flat, we were almost done. 

When we crossed the finish line, they announced our names like we were Olympic champions and I got a medal to prove that it actually happened. 

Listen to me:

Life is going to hit you like a hurricane. You are going to grieve what you thought your life would be. You are going to suffer loss and even betrayal from those whom you love with all your heart. You will do everything you can think to do and promotions will pass you by and promises will take their time to unfold. You will have to make hard choices and you will need to keep your heart soft and free from all offense, disillusionment and bitterness.  

Set your eyes on the finish.

In setback, disappointment, discouragement, abandonment, heartache and pain, you must set your eyes on the finish. 

This is your race, no one else’s. Start and finish. 

Start smart with training. Get coaches, leaders and pastors in your life. Read a lot of books, fill your brain with really good information, become a learner. 

Build a community. Say yes to God and no to things that will destroy you. Build smart, build strong. Don’t ever, ever quit. 

Stay in your lane. I know I am not alone in this, we are all broken vessels with flaws, insecurities, limitations and plenty of self-doubt. You may even make a mistake and break the hearts of those you love and lead. But don’t you ever quit. 

 Don’t quit. 

I came in 6th from the end that day. I think I was number 264 out of 270 racers, but I didn’t care. I FINISHED! The best part was, I finished will all the top riders because they were wrapping up their 160k ride when we were finishing our 50km.  I crossed the finish line with the CHAMPIONS and felt like one myself because I FINISHED.

Life is not a sprint; it is a long, gruelling marathon. You will never know who will be with you at the finish line.  There may be others along the way who are more talented and capable who will blow out before they reach the end, but you won’t because you are a finisher.

Trust me when I say it will not be your talent that gets you to the end. It will be your grit. 

Grit says, “I will never lose hope in you Jesus. No matter how dark it gets, I will NEVER walk away. Never.” 

What kind of strength did it take Job, when he had lost everything, to say “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.” (Job 13:15) 

Or think of David, after he sinned with Bathsheba, broken, his reputation ruined, an adulterer, liar and murderer who found forgiveness. What does it take to pray this prayer: 

“Make me to hear joy and gladness,

Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” (Psalms 51:8)

That is the sound of champions.

We fall. We rise. 

We never quit.  

Never. 

As believers in Jesus, we have the ultimate example of finishing.

Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Make no mistake. Jesus is a finisher. 

Because He is a finisher, we can be too.

May He fill you with the courage you need to start and finish the long, fulfilling race He has marked out for you. 

Close

50% Complete

Stay connected, Stay inspired!

Receive a daily email with a dose of encouragement to live on purpose.