I’m not sure when it started.
I’m sure we were probably just in a hurry to get kids to bed. And I’m also pretty sure I learned this little trick for my own parents. (And fell for it often.)
What do you do to get kids excited to do something they really don’t want to do?
You enthusiastically time them (okay, you at least make it look like you’re going to time them…don’t judge) or you make it a race, of course.
So for the past few weeks when the boys hear the word “bedtime” they enthusiastically try to beat Daddy up the stairs to get ready for bath. Little feet scurry. Giggles ensue.
But sometimes so do tears.
Someone manages to trip or slide or fall. Someone doesn’t win. So someone begins to protest the race.
And because he’s the smallest mobile boy, poor Toby is usually the one that doesn’t want to play our game anymore.
“Mom, it’s not a RACE! It’s not a race, Mom!”
You see, the game is fun when you’re the one winning. But when you’re the one with 3 years less experience on those little stubby legs…or when you’re the one to trip and fall and drag behind…you definitely don’t want to play anymore.
But we grown-ups do the same, don’t we?
Our little Jack turned 9 months old last week. He’s a happy, smiley sweetheart of a boy…who also happens to not be terribly interested in being mobile. He contently sits and plays or gets down and rolls around a bit if there’s something close enough by that he wants to get to, but a race? He’s definitely not interested in that.
“So, is he crawling yet?”
“Isn’t he pulling himself up yet?”
“Is he cruising? Standing? Walking?”
Nope. And before you ask, he’s not driving yet, either.
And if I’m really lucky, sometimes those questions are followed by…
“Oh. Well, let me show you a picture/video/complete narrative of my baby doing all of those things better than yours. Oh, and did I mention they’re way younger than your baby?”
Okay, maybe they don’t exactly say it that way. But that seems to be what this mama hears.
Jack’s belly is also really sensitive, leaving him falling behind in the race to conquer solids and finger foods. And he’s also still a little peanut and small for his age (no doubt also having to do with the fact that he didn’t grow for 2+ months), putting us way behind in the growth race.
When I don’t compare and simply enjoy my sweet boy, none of this bothers or concerns me. But when I start looking around? The questions and insecurities creep in…
Is there something wrong with him?
Why isn’t he like that baby?
What am I doing wrong?
How do I fix this?
And the deep recesses of my heart I feel those ugly twinges of comparison and jealousy and I wonder if he’s a failure. If I’m a failure.
Mom, it’s not a race.
I remember the feeling with Isaiah as baby…and an absolutely terrible sleeper. The Facebook statuses about babies sleeping beautifully through the night. The books that told me I was doing everything wrong or doing everything right (and yet he still wouldn’t sleep). The questions of whether or not he was a “good baby”. All leaving me discouraged, frustrated, and insecure.
Now my 6 year old Isaiah can read better than a lot of middle schoolers I know…but he still can’t tie his shoes or ride a two-wheeler bike.
My 3 year old Toby has been speaking since he came out of the womb (okay, maybe not that early…but it feels like it)…but he’s still learning manners and is sometimes rude and disrespectful and can have an explosive temper. He was potty-trained at 2 1/2…but it might be years before he can keep himself dry through the night (much like his big brother).
And those same questions, insecurities, and feelings can creep in if I let them.
We love the race when we are winning. When we are at the head of the pack. When we can give ourselves a good pat on the back.
When our kids are ahead. When we drop the baby weight quickly. When our houses are clean. When our parties and crafts and meals are Pintrest worthy.
But when we’re losing?
We question. We doubt. We’re insecure and make excuses and want to hide.
Mom, it’s not a race.
Unfortunately, my wondering heart doesn’t just play this game in the context of motherhood. As a pastor’s wife, I can often let the same comparisons and insecurities creep in.
Wow, they’re ministry looks way more successful.
Why aren’t we growing like they are?
Why is this taking so long?
Why doesn’t anyone make a big deal of US?
And the deep recesses of my heart I feel those ugly twinges of comparison and jealousy and I wonder if my ministry is a failure. If I’m a failure.
Mom, it’s not a race.
And I find myself wondering why in the world it bothers me so much! Unfortunately, what I’ve found is it’s easy to blame the person that asks the question or brags about their kid or boasts about their ministry (all things that I’m sure I’ve been guilty of, as well). But those yucky feelings that those things induce in my heart...it’s not. their. fault. In fact, it really has nothing to do with them.
“…When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”
– 2 Corinthians 10:12
The problem lies in what’s going on in my heart. Where my focus is. Where my identity lies. What and who I’m serving.
Because we are in the midst of a race. But not the one I’m usually trying to run.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
– Hebrews 12:1-2
In this race, my identity is not based on how I perform or what I do, but on Who Christ is and what He’s already done and what I’ve taken hold of. I’m called to run. And run hard. But not so I can boast about how good I am, but how good He is.
“Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
– 2 Corinthians 10:17
I’m called to run. Called to serve. Called to strive for holiness. Called to worship.
But not to run to commend myself. Not to serve myself. Not to claim my own righteousness. Not to worship the created over the Creator.
And in these silly races we run and these temporal and fleshly games we play, no one wins. We can strive and strive and strive, but there’s no reward.
But in this better race?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
– 2 Timothy 4:7-8
There is a reward. But even those awards and crowns are not about me. I’ll eventually lay them back down at the feet of the One Who truly is the only reward worth longing and living for.
Mom, there is a race.
But let’s make sure we’re running the right one. Not looking to the left or right. Not shoving each other out of the way or pushing ourselves ahead.
Let’s run together. Side by side. Spurring each other on. Eyes fixed on the Author and Perfecter of the race set before us.