Perseverance: The Race Set Before Us

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1

Gaman is a Japanese term of Zen origin which means “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”. The term is generally translated as “perseverance” or “patience.”

And, within Scripture, this principle is, indeed, a faith focal point.

… we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience. And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Romans 5:3-4

For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. Hebrews 10:36

I don’t know about your physical education experience when you were a kid, but my class always participated in the annual presidential physical fitness test.

Is anyone out there groaning yet?

As part of that test to assess kids’ fitness levels, things like pushups, sit ups and pull ups were measured. But the thing which caused me the most dread- and the least success- was the 600 yard run.

Now, is anyone out there groaning?

If you’re not familiar with

this test, let me break it down. It required some hyped up kids running around the football field twice to measure their personal stamina and speed. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Perhaps, if you’re a long distance runner, you wouldn’t sweat the field one bit. But, for me, year after year, I feared it, anticipating the worst possible outcomes: face plants, side aches and of course, coming in last.

And, sure enough, each time I ran this race, clumsy me would surface as I endeavored to complete the run. I’d start out, running fast, with my blue Nikes pounding the grass. Sometimes, at the start of the race, I’d even think, “this isn’t so bad.”

But reality would show up soon enough.

Eventually, one by one, the other kids would pass me. “Everyone else” seemed to finish as a herd, in a timely fashion, while I was the one stray loser, stumbling to the finish line. And, as I crossed that finish line (if that’s what you want to call it), the other kids laughed at me.

It was further confirmation I was subpar. And it impacted my life, into adulthood.

I repeatedly set myself up for failure. How? I required perfection of myself. Whether it was by procrastination, eating disorder behaviors or unrealistic expectations from ever- changing achievements, the core focus was still unrealistic and harmful perfection. It’s one I’m still working on to this day.

Indeed, part of my definition of perfection involved “getting it” quickly. I felt I never caught on to something “everyone else” seemed to automatically pick up with no problem.

How’s that for a tidy little lie? Comparing ourselves against others is dangerous. We lose sight of ourselves.

Runners are often instructed not to look at their fellow competitors when they’re in the middle of a race. Why? Is it some savvy intimidation strategy? No. Simply put, it’s to keep the runner from getting distracted, so he/she won’t face plant into the ground because he/she isn’t paying attention to where he/she is going.

Lesson: run your own race.

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1

Easier said than done? Yes. But is it achievable? Yes, it is.

It’s not because we’re perfect. It’s not even because we’re fast. Some of us pick up things at a slower pace.

But it’s about continuing the race, at whatever speed you and I find ourselves running-or walking-or crawling. It’s about the Gaman concept of two words, “keep going.”

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11

There are times in our lives when it appears no movement is happening. No one is immune from these setbacks. Each of us is subject to “time and chance,” like Ecclesiastes tells us.

However, like Reverend Charles Spurgeon once stated, “By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.”

Do you feel like a snail, like you’re losing your own race? Where are you looking?

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. Proverbs 4:26- 27

For every race you’ve participated in, football field or no football field, Elohim is running with you.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him… 2 Chronicles 16:9

That includes the race of recovery. It is an ongoing marathon. Therefore, within that context, 2 Chronicles’ use of the word “perfect” doesn’t mean “perfect” at all; it means focused on our Divine Source.

That’s the real challenge, isn’t it? We’re called to persevere in our lives for the Most High, however imperfectly that may be.

…let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Indeed, we need look no further than to that of our own Messiah. His excruciating death exemplifies the endurance.

… the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

Pain, trauma, recovery, self-improvement, goal setting and a healthy perspective and relationship with both ourselves and our God all require we run the race of perseverance. There are no shortcuts. But the rewards? They transcend the spiritual, touching our physical, emotional, mental and imperfect selves.

And they all contribute to our unique, personal and triumphant finish lines.

But we need to begin running our race. Movement starts within the spirit and spreads through our persevering feet.

The victorious race is meant for you; start running it now.