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Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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Comparison and ‘Value’

Comparison.

It drives every aspect of our lives. How do we stack up in the rankings?

In work, do you get your self-worth from the number of sales you have brought in or the initiatives you’ve been able to bring to your business? Do you correlate the amount of your paycheck with your personal and professional value? Do you measure yourself by the house you own or the car you drive?

Often times, we spend our lives comparing ourselves to others in a desperate attempt to derive more self-worth or somehow feel valued.

I spent this past weekend in Leadville pacing at one of the biggest ultrarunning races on the planet, the Leadville 100 Trail Run. Profiled in countless books and media, the Leadville 100 typically boasts a 40-50% finisher rate OR a 50%-60% failure rate depending on how you look at it. Within that finisher pool, if you finish in less than 25 hours you get a big belt buckle. If you finish in less than 30 hours you get a smaller belt buckle. There are awards for top three athletes overall and the top three in each age group category. Walk around the finish of Leadville, and you hear athletes boasting about their accomplishments:

“I got a big buckle.” “I finished before the cutoff.” “I got on the podium.” “I didn’t finish because of….fill in the blank.”

I even stood next to a guy at the finish line that had a 200-mile ultrarunning race finishers t-shirt on (from another race) and it was tucked into the front of his shorts to show off his 200-mile finishers belt buckle as if to say, “Yeah, I’m proud of all you finishers, but I’m way more bad ass than you. I ran TWICE as far

I do think we should be proud of our accomplishments and set goals to pull out our best potential. The danger I find however, is when we derive our importance and self-worth from comparing ourselves to others and placing value on these goals outside the goal itself. Placing improper importance on the goal itself damages the life experience.

What if you still strive to achieve excellence, but you knew your value was not based in how much or how little you have or are able to do? What if your DNF (did not finish) in the last race didn’t matter to you anymore than taking first place in terms of how you see yourself?

One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote a book called “Searching for God Knows What” where he profiles the broken human condition and points out that we are all trying to achieve success based on how we stack up against other people. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul clarifies that our inherent value has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do. (Romans 3:21-30) It has nothing to do with our accomplishments or feats in life. We are all valued as humans in the full and overflowing love that comes from God (whether you believe in Him or not).

What if we all lived our lives knowing that we already had all the intrinsic value we need by just being us? What if we no longer compared ourselves against others because we were all at peace with who we are already?

How would you live your life differently?

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Be an Athlete

This past weekend I traveled back up to Leadville for another race. The trail marathon at Leadville takes runners over 26 miles of some of the most beautiful and challenging terrain one can imagine. The old mining town based at 10,000 feet above sea level hosts some of the world’s best athletes each summer for their race series.

One thing I love about trail racing is the eclectic cast of runners at the races. You will see everything from the Boston-marathon looking runners in short shorts to the bearded Forest Gump-looking barefoot runners. It’s a great mix of people all there for one goal, and that is to hopefully cross the finish line. Close to 6,000 feet of vertical climbing and a trip up the 13,000 foot summit of Mosquito Pass makes it a daunting challenge.

As I was lined up at the start line looking at all the other athletes, I kept coming back to the idea of ‘identity’. All the runners were unique, yet we were all runners.

I had the pleasure of attending a small group bible study last week that a friend of mine hosts at his office. The topic of the week was ‘identity’ and the identity we have in Christ. While we are all unique as believers, we have a new identity in Christ that binds us all together. The key is for us to start living out that identity and believing it.

For the longest time, I didn’t consider myself a true athlete even with all the races I did. Even though I trained, studied and put in the work, I didn’t think I was qualified to be called an ‘athlete’ because I was finishing races outside of the top 10, or because I didn’t train as hard as the pros. I was in the car several weeks ago, and I was talking to my wife about how I was more of a ‘hobbiest’ than an ‘athlete’ and she called me out. “You are one heck of an athlete, babe. You are pretty amazing at your sports. Don’t sell yourself short.”

Lining up at the start line in Leadville, I had the realization that I was indeed an athlete.  I also started to think about my identity as a Christian. I am hardly qualified half of the time to take on that identity, and I feel pretty imperfect most of the time. I don’t train as hard as I should, there are others faster and more knowledgeable than me, and I go through seasons of doubt. This is the amazing news though- Grace. It’s not about how hard I work, or how perfect or imperfect I am. All I have to do is just admit the fact that I can’t do it on my own and I need Him.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.“- Ephesians 2:8-9

As believers, we are all athletes in this race together. We all have all prepared for the race a little differently, but we are here to encourage each other, share some training tips and pick each other up when we fall down. Hopefully, we can all finish the race strong. It is time to embrace our identity and start living it.

 

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24

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