Does it really matter what ‘they’ think?

When I moved house and started running frequently, I had a route close to my home – I did laps around a cluster of houses. After a while, when I decided to increase my running distance, I found a route that took me a bit out of my area and then back, so I ended up at my original route, where I’d walk a lap to cool down. While I was doing the original route, people like security men, drivers and others who generally hang around those streets in the mornings would see me as I do lap after lap, normally 5 or 6. I used to secretly take pleasure in the fact that they’d be (supposedly) admiring my determination and stamina. I had a little audience who could appreciate the effort I was making. 

Alas, on my new route, some people would see me at my take-off point, others at the point where I do an about turn, and yet others, along the way. I went through a period when I would resent the fact that the people who would see me walking by the time I end my run at my former route and begin the cool down, would not appreciate the effort I had put into my workout…..would not know that I had just run 5km! It’s actually laughable now 🙂 I realised this morning, as I did my cool down walk, that life was just that way. We all have individual races to run and grace qualifies us to enter the ‘race’, the entry fee having being paid by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Only God sees us at every point of our race but no human being can do that. Some see us when we’re soaring, our adrenaline is pumping and we’re doing incredible speeds, yet some others see us when we’re struggling to take the next step because our legs feel like lead, or when we’re struggling to maintain our breathing. Sometimes, we even stop to catch our breath or slow down to walking pace and passersby on their own tracks start forming their own conclusions about how we are running our own race just based on what they’ve seen in that instance. Bringing it down to everyday life, some people come across us when we’re full of faith and zeal, seemingly on top of the world and unstoppable; some meet us when we’re in a dark valley, struggling with fear or flaws; some meet us when we’re just coasting along, no challenges and no resultant victories…..just moving on auto-pilot, doing the things we think we should be doing as good Christian folk; and yes, some see us when we fall flat on our faces. If I might pause at this last scenario for a bit: The observer of our fall might not be there when we get up and continue running, so he or she might leave us with a certain impression in their mind about us. The question is, “Does it really matter what they think?”

We have to decide that we’re running for one spectator only – God. He is the originator of the race and He will award the prizes. Thankfully, this is one race where we can all get gold because each track has its own set of prizes just waiting to be won. We’re not in competition with one another, only with our own selves. If we run within the rules of the race and with diligence, nothing can stop us from winning the gold…..from hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”, when we step out of time and into eternity. I always get a thrill just thinking about this kind of reception after having done all to stand and standing by His grace. Also comforting is the knowledge that He’s cheering us on and not waiting for us to fall; and if we fall, He’s eager to help us back on our feet when we look to Him for help…..a present Help in time of need.

While we are to be epistles (letters) that men would read to know more about Christ, we are not to live our lives to please them but rather to please God. I think sometimes it gets tougher to remember this as people make a big deal out of you and set you up on a pedestal because they then find it difficult to imagine that you make mistakes or that you are still growing. Yet we are all meant to be growing daily into the fullness of the stature of Christ, becoming true reflections of Him (His nature), as we renew our minds daily with the His truth in the bible. Nobody in the flesh is perfect and completely without fault or failing. We all have to carry our crosses everyday and subdue our flesh, making it obedient to the Spirit of God, and sometimes, we don’t get it right. The onus is on us to maintain a heart of flesh that would quickly perceive that all is not well between God and us (because sin drives a wedge between us and God) and repent as soon as we are convicted. Our priority must be to please God and build our relationship with Him. Some people will be pleased when we are doing well in our race, but some would be happier to see us stumble and fall. Yet still, the same ones who cheer us today will one day do a 180 degrees turn and boo us……and vice versa. Human beings are fickle, so making pleasing them our goal is setting ourselves up for pain and heartbreak. God’s answer to those who would set themselves as judges is: ” Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.” (Rom. 14:4)

So, I’ve told myself to stop caring about what others are saying or thinking about me and to focus on what God is saying and thinking about me.