In It For the Long Run

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I Corinthians 9:24, “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.”

Long ago, in the midst of summer days where fireflies and June bugs flitted and whirred in the warm Iowa air, I lived in a small town on a “block” towards the outskirts of town.  It was an area that was newer, when it was 1965.  But one night, one summer night, I learned a valuable life lesson … I remember it like it was yesterday.

Fireflies-square

My neighbor *Jack and I, set out to catch some fireflies.  Oh, how we loved the little green light that would glow from their wings.  I grabbed a big clear  mason canning jar from the kitchen table and threw my Keds tennis shoes on my feet.  Every summer, Mom would splurge and purchase us kids new tennis shoes for summer fun.  I was so excited to get going, I barely got the shoestrings tied.

Jack had borrowed a hammer and nails from his garage and poked holes in the top lids as we waited for darkness to fall.  As I watched him drive around the driveway on his stingray bike, he asked, “I really should be practicing for my long distance run on Monday, do you want to run with me?”

My neighbor was one of four boys that had lived across the street since before we moved in, and he loved to run.  I was shocked he’d asked me.  I was always picked last to be on the baseball team.   “Yeah, sure” I answered.  I knew it would pass the time until darkness would fall.

I heard the words, “On your mark, get set, go!” and off we ran.  I started out as fast as I could.  I was going to beat this young kid, two years older than me, and much taller.  I was sure I would beat him … after all he started out so slow!

Jack took long strides and deep even breaths, while I began panting, my heart racing and my lungs burning.  I looked next to me as he was steadily passing me by.  And there he went.  I stopped right there.  That was it for me.

By this time the sun was starting to set and I looked up at the last part of the block.  There he was, sitting on the curb, patiently waiting.  I walked up to him thinking he would tease me terribly.  Instead he handed me the bug jars and said, “Good job.”

And then he told me something I will never forget.  He said, “If you’re in it for the long run, you have to pace yourself.”

Sometimes life can just be downright difficult.  You have decisions to make every day.  You have pressures and problems with jobs, families, and health.  But I’ve learned that when I put all my strength and energy into something immediately and don’t pace myself, I run out of steam.

When we’re truly in something for the long run, our job, parenting, our marriage, our relationship to Jesus Christ, well, we need to pace ourselves.  We need to pace our energy and not just give up and quit when our lungs burn and our patience is worn thin.

Pacing yourself means diligence, commitment, time, effort and attention to those things that are important to us.

This past week I heard the buzzing of the June bug outside our patio door and it threw me back in time to the days of fireflies and bugs, and warm summer nights when lessons of pacing yourself in the long run, made a difference to that little Iowa girl.

**Name changed so I don’t embarrass my neighbor!