MY career as a cross-country runner was never really destined to succeed.
I began running after deciding against any sport involving foot-eye co-ordination – “I do like soccer, Daddy, it’s just the part about kicking the ball I don’t like!” – but the biggest drawcard for cross-country was the high chance of seeing wild rabbits in the forest.
When I arrived at high school, I learned to my dismay that we would not be training in forests with sprightly rabbit.
We ran around the field. In circles.
I was almost grateful when I sprained my ankle in regionals and had to pull out of the team.
Ankle injury aside, I needed time to nurse my sprained ego.
Turns out, once you hit Year 8, it’s a lot harder to be the best at everything. Subconsciously my mantra was, “If at first you don’t succeed, abort mission in favour of one in which you’re guaranteed first place.”
Unhappily for present Kate, that lack of perseverance in cross-country now frequently results in frustrated, gasping breaths in the exhaust fumes of a missed bus.
This week alone has supplied four separate instances of sprint training, all unwilled and ill prepared-for, all in pursuit of prematurely departing public transport.
I imagine St Paul is snickering at me: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training … therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)
I keep missing the thing that gets me where I want to go because I didn’t invest in the training process.
When the fun went out of running, I bailed on it.
In my journey as a Christian, I’m often tempted to do the same: the moment the worship song is over, I’m ready to go back to “normal” life.
The snooze button presents a better case for itself than the Bible on my bedside table; another drink sounds more exciting than respecting the clarity of mind God gives me in sobriety; laughing along with the anti-Catholic joke makes more sense than seeming like a sourpuss standing up for my Church.
The faith that was initially attractive demands more of me than appreciating rabbit-covered hillsides – it calls me to train, and to run with my eyes fixed on the prize.
Sometimes I feel like I’m running around in circles. I make the same mistakes again and again. I find myself still lacking in the fitness needed for certain goals. I never improve as quickly as I want to.
And many days I don’t feel like I’ll be the one to win the race.
Sanctity might be achievable, but not for me.
“If at first you don’t succeed …” a voice in my head taunts, “Maybe you should just bail on this whole Jesus thing. You’ll never make it as a saint-in-progress.”
I think we’re often wedged between two lies: (1) You will never be a saint; (2) You have to be one already.
It’s easy to see how illogical this dual mentality would be for a training athlete – “clearly, since you’re not an Olympic sprinter at age six, you never will be” – and yet we allow our Christian journeys to be plagued by this counter-productive outlook.
As I train for the Kingdom of Heaven, getting up morning after morning to fix my eyes on the face of Christ who is my goal, the first hurdle to jump over is discouragement.
No, I didn’t run my personal best yesterday.
Yes, I skipped hill training last week.
But today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I am determined to train as if I will win the race.
By His grace, I can become a saint. And because of His mercy, it is okay that I am not a saint yet.
God, like TransLink, gives us so many opportunities to get where we want to go. But it takes our investment in the training process to ensure that we don’t spend our lives in the exhaust fumes of those opportunities.
Let’s “run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith … Think of him … so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Kate Gilday is a university student and youth leader in the Brisbane archdiocese. Her dream is to write for the Catholic Church.