I am an avid exerciser. I have a Peloton bike and one of the instructors often says that she starts out every ride or race envisioning the finish line. She implores the class to close their eyes and focus on their individual finish lines.
The finish line metaphor is something that comes up all the time in our goal-oriented society. As a society and culture, we are constantly seeking to knock down goals and rack up accomplishments . It seems as if we get so obsessed with the goal that the process and the journey don’t really matter as much. They can simply become a means to an end.
To me, the most important thing is to actually start. You can’t finish unless you start. Starting or showing up is an accomplishment in and of itself. Sometimes it may be the most difficult hurdle of them all. Self-doubt, laziness, complacency, lack of preparation, negative thoughts, these are all impediments from taking the very first step on the journey towards the finish line.
I often say that many things in life are not about a process, it’s about a decision. The process begins after you have made the decision. Starting is all about making a decision. The process or the journey begins after the decision to start.
Taking the first step or starting leads to staying or persevering which eventually leads to finishing or crossing the finish line.
In my humble opinion, the finish line is the least important thing in that continuum. I know that sounds absurd, because most of us decide to start and make that first step on the journey or the process for the sole purpose of reaching the goal of crossing the finish line.
But, if you think about it, if you are able to have staying power throughout the process and give your sustainable maximum effort throughout, then the finish line will take care of itself. If you can somehow find a way to be effective and efficient with your effort despite the discomfort or pain then the finish line will just eventually come.
In my Bible study recently was Matthew 6:33-34:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The commentary had a great quote from Corrie ten Boom, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow, but empties today of strength.”
When I am exercising, I often find myself worrying about and dreading the physical and mental pain of the physical activity instead of giving my maximum sustainable effort in that moment and focusing on staying in that moment despite the physical and mental discomfort or pain. Dreading or worrying about the pain actually does have an impact on my strength in that moment.
Focusing on the finish line does indeed sometimes give me a temporary burst of energy when I know I am close, because I know I get to rest and I will have the satisfaction of finishing. However, what I want even more than that satisfaction is to have the ability to stay and endure even through the pain no matter how excruciating.
So recently I’ve been working out without the clock. On the screen of the bike is a timer that counts down letting you know how long you have left in the workout as well as a progress bar that give you a quick visual cue. Before I start the workout, I disable both of those indicators leaving me with the ability to only focus in on the moment that I am in. That doesn’t mean that my mind doesn’t wander and worry about how much time is left and how much longer I am going to have to endure. Since, I’ve already conquered the hardest part of the ride which is to actually jump in the saddle, now all I have to do is stay there and the finish line will take care of itself.
This is more mental than physical and that is what I believe God is calling for us to do in Matthew 6.
That’s what this Christian journey is all about. As human beings, we all will cross the finish line of death one day and almost all of us are not purposely rushing or running at record speed to get there. The medal that is waiting for Believers on the other side of that finish line is an underserved reward for running the race.
Our job as Christians is to stay in the race and persevere as God has commanded us in our perpetual series of “nows” in life’s moments no matter what the obstacle, no matter what the pain, no matter what the price. The strength is in each moment of the journey, not in the goal, for the finish line is assured and so is victory on the other side of it – if you believe.