Two weekends ago, I drove all the way down to Lynchburg (about a 3 hour drive) to run a 5k in a track meet. And instead of ending the meet with a PR time following my name in the results, which was the goal, I ended it with 3 letters that have never followed my name in any results before: DNF. Did Not Finish.
I am the kind of person who finishes what she starts. I’m the kind of person who will sit through a crappy movie instead of walking out because I feel like I have to finish it. I’m the kind of person who will finish a meal even though I’m completely full so I don’t leave that little bit left on my plate. I’m the kind of person who has never even considered dropping out of a race before. Until I did.
So I was sitting in my car, driving the 3 long hours back home from Lynchburg, and trying to figure out this one thing: how did I get here? How did I go from being someone who always finishes what she starts to being someone who drops out of races? It seems like I was just going along, living my life, and all of a sudden I changed.
But as I thought about it, I started to realize that that is not what happened. It didn’t happen suddenly at all, but instead so slowly as to be almost imperceptible. It was small decisions. Waking up early on a Friday morning and deciding that I would sleep in instead of go to practice, rationalizing that I could do just as good of a tempo run by myself as with my team (but knowing deep down that wasn’t true). It was deciding not to make time for core work. It was in the middle of a race when I just gave up – I didn’t drop out, but I stopped pushing, stopped racing because I was too tired.
All these things that didn’t seem like that big of a deal on their own, but when you add them all together…I was changing. The more times you choose to sleep in instead of get up and run, the easier it becomes to make that decision. And pretty soon you just get lazy all around. That is how I got to a point in my life where it was even possible for me to make the decision to drop out of a race.
I realized something else on that long drive back home: this is the same thing that happens with sin. It starts with a little decision – no big deal, easy enough to justify. But then it becomes easier to make that same decision again, and then to make bigger, worse decisions. We get lazy; we stop fighting it. I’ve learned that self-control is a discipline, and the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. But once you make a choice to stop practicing it, it becomes harder than it was before. And one day you wake up and wonder “how did I get here?” It seems like it happened overnight but in reality it’s been happening for a while, little by little.
So where do we go from that place? Thankfully, God is forgiving and willing to help. And you also have to learn to forgive yourself. After that, it comes back down to decisions. As one of my favorite lines in a Switchfoot song goes – “Hallelujah, every breath is a second chance.” Every decision we make is a chance to get back on track. It’s not easy, once you’ve gotten into that pattern of laziness and sin. It will be harder at first, to make the harder decision, the right decision.
But there is redemption. There is redemption from sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. And for my running, there was redemption in the form of a second chance – another race just 4 days after my DNF. This one was a road mile, and it was a couple hour drive away. I didn’t sleep well the night before and I was stressed out from school, so I considered just not even going. But I made the decision to go and run it. And I made the decision to push through the whole thing. And I’m glad I did, because I ended up winning the race and going under 5:00 for just the second time in my life. Redemption. Praise God.