As any runner can tell you, no one starts off running by signing up for a marathon. First I learned to run a mile, and then I worked up to a 5K, and then I tackled numerous half-marathons and a lot of intense training before building up the endurance to run 26.2 miles.
One day, during a training session, my lungs fatigued as the distance passed beneath my feet. With each harsh foot strike, my mental stamina was challenged beyond anything I had previously experienced. Since I’d never run a full marathon, my body didn’t recognize this level of strain. I was bone-tired but still had 5 miles to go. Although I had crossed the finish line of many half-marathons and done other endurance activities, I was unsure if I could finish that first 20-mile training run.
I’d been warned this might happen, so I’d asked my running coach, Robin, to meet me at mile 18. Without her, I knew there was a chance I might stop early.
As I reached our meeting point, I could see she was checking her laces. Soon, off we went. Together. With her pacing beside me, she lifted my spirits and gave life to my tired muscles in a way I desperately needed, as if I had borrowed strength from her fresh legs. But the boost was short-lived. When we turned for the final stretch, I could go no farther. I stopped, put my head between my knees, took deep, long breaths, and started tearing up. “I can’t do this,” I whispered, shame and frustration blocking my voice.
Robin knelt, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Rebecca, you’ve made it this far. Think about it as if you’re starting a 1-mile run. Don’t think of the 19 miles you’ve already done. Let’s go!”
With her cheering me through each passing second, one step at a time, we drew closer and closer to our cars. When I finally felt the vibration of my watch signaling I had finished the final mile, I cried right there in the parking lot.
When training for a full marathon, everyone at some point will feel like they’re at the end of themselves. Oftentimes, as we pursue our glory goal, similar moments happen, when we have to develop some spiritual stick-to-itiveness to endure the final stretch.
Enduring to the end of an endeavor has been a through line in my life.
There isn’t a sprinter bone in my body. The slow churn is where I tend to thrive. Maybe that’s why God leads me to long-run opportunities, the kind of situations where, rather than a short burst of ministry, there’s a long season of just plain ol’ not quitting.
In life, we must fix our eyes on Jesus in the same way I relied on Robin to strengthen me that day in training. My book, Do the Thing, is evidence of my long game. Seven years of my life went into pursuing the opportunity to become a traditionally published author. (Yes, I said seven years!) Some might ask, “How did you know not to give up?” The truth is, I didn’t. The real truth is, many of us quit too soon.
Maybe you’ve been discipling the same group of women for a while and you don’t seem to be seeing any spiritual progress. Perhaps you started a business that you’re passionate about but it isn’t growing quite as quickly as you anticipated. Maybe you’ve been recruiting volunteers for a community project and you haven’t yet found the right support team. There are many challenges in life that can leave us feeling discouraged as if we can’t make it one step further.
This is when our not-giving-up, slow-churn attitude is crucial. I sum up this concept as stick-to-itiveness. It means “dogged perseverance.”
I’ll confess … some days—most days—I don’t feel very “dogged” about anything.
But remember how I do not operate by my own strength and that it’s not all up to me to complete this journey. That same belief can help us walk forward with a confidence that God will lead us, even in those moments when sticking it out feels Oh. So. Hard.
Instead of being frustrated by our limits and our areas of weakness, what if we celebrated our limits? Limits allow us to lean on God and His strength as our primary source of fuel. They remind us that we are nothing without Him and that He is faithful to meet us in the places of our greatest lack. Every day is an opportunity to realize on a deeper level just how dependent we are on Him.
We can develop a Christlike tenacity when we walk stride for stride in submission to the Holy Spirit’s leading and prompting. We still do the work; we just know who is empowering us through every step.
Excerpted from Do The Thing ©2023 by Rebecca George. Used by permission of David C Cook.
Rebecca George is the founder of Radical Radiance® —a podcast community where listeners are encouraged and equipped to radiate the heart of Jesus in their life, work, and relationships. She is the author of Do The Thing, releasing this Spring from David C Cook. She is married to Dustin, the senior pastor of Vonore Baptist Church in East Tennessee. Connect with Rebecca on Instagram (rebeccageorgeauthor) or at www.radicalradiance.live.