I’m training for my first half marathon. I told you this a few posts back and I shared my true feelings on Instagram just last week. While I joke about hating it, to be honest, it has been going pretty well. My sister and I are following this running plan and the increase in miles each week has been gradual. I’m actually amazed at how my body has increased in endurance and speed over the last five weeks. Talk to me in another month when we're cranking out eight miles and I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about this. Eek! Half credit to my playlist for singing me through the miles. I put it together for you on Spotify if you’re interested in having a listen on your next run.
So, I was talking to a friend of mine recently about my training. I was driving to the gym while we were talking and I said I wasn’t looking forward to the run.
“I don’t even know why I’m doing this,” I complained. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I have always said that a marathon, even a half marathon, was something I would never do. I felt no need, like why would anyone need to run that far? There’s a reason Ford invented the Model T and I say we give him all the praise hands for that. Well done.
“Just imagine the story you’ll tell your grandkids about the time you ran a half marathon. Do it for the grandkids,” he said to me. We joked about it a little bit, about how I’d sit in my rocking chair and the grandkids would sit around and listen to my tales. I hope running a half marathon isn’t the apex of what I accomplish before I have grandkids, but you never know. So, he and I throw that phrase around. “Do it for the grandkids.” It started as a joke, but then it got me thinking. What if we thought about that before all of our life decisions – about the grandkids? What would they think about what you're doing now? What do you want them to think about you? Would it change what you're doing today - the choices you make, the places you go, your attitude, your heart?
Matt Chandler is a pastor in Texas and I have listened to his sermons for years because I like the way he preaches. He isn’t afraid to stand on truth, even in the face of it not being cool, and he does his best to point people to Jesus. In one of his sermons he was talking about how he likes to imagine his life forty years from now – when his kids are grown up and out of the house, when he has retired from his job as a pastor, when he and his wife are sitting on the back porch, drinking sweet tea and talking about life. I don’t remember the specifics of what he said next but it was along the lines of wanting his family to be proud of him. Of wanting his wife to be the person next to him all those years later. Of wanting his kids to still love him and look up to him. Of wanting his grandkids to come over and play. He shared his dreams for the future and then talked about how those dreams shape his life – how they affect the decisions he makes right now. Every day.
I don’t know if we think about the future often enough because we’re always told, “Live for today! It’s all you’ve got!” Yes, that’s true. I’ve seen too much sudden death to ever believe otherwise. I live right next door to a cemetery, and I mean right next door, as in ten steps away. When I got home from the gym the other morning, a bobcat was turning over the earth, digging a new hole in the ground. It’s not hard to be ever aware of the brevity of life when it stares you in the face – when you watch a new green tent pop up and loved ones gather underneath to mourn loss. When plastic flowers and flags and momentos constantly blow across frozen ground into my parking lot.
But, we get so caught up in ourselves sometimes, in doing what would make us most happy in one single moment, we forget there are years ahead of us and that our decisions today will impact those years. I wish I would have realized this sooner. I spent a lot of time in my teens and twenties making decisions that affected me in the immediacy of twenty minutes, rather than thinking about how that might change the course of my years. I didn’t think about my grandkids.
I saw this quote the other day in my Twitter feed, but then it popped up again on Pinterest and if I see something multiple places maybe I better take note. I pinned it so that I’d always have it and hopefully remember its truth. The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. Who do you want to be? Who do you want your kids and your grandkids and your neighbors and your coworkers to say that you are? On the one hand, we talk about how we shouldn’t care what other people think of us, but on the other, isn’t the legacy we leave essentially what other people think of us - the stories they tell when we’re no longer here to tell them ourselves?
So often it’s hard to think about the future when we’re in the moment because the moment is so heavy in front of us. The future seems intangible – will I ever be 60? 90? I don’t know, but right now I want to do this. Whatever your this might be. So we make these decisions and maybe they’re wrong, and it’s okay to make mistakes, don’t hear me say that. But my own pastor said once, “No one wakes up in the morning and decides to ruin their life.” It’s one little decision at a time until you wonder how you arrived in this place.
The biggest problem with life choices we make that we know we shouldn't make is we don’t feel like we have a way out of that moment. Maybe it’s peer pressure or coworker pressure or your own internal pressure making you feel like there’s only one way to handle what’s in front of you. Like the Bible talks about having a way of escape but I'll tell you, I usually feel trapped in those moments before a wrong decision. Surrounded. Pinned down - like the guy whose arm was stuck under a boulder and he couldn't get free so the only thing he could do was hack away at his own flesh. I don't know how you work through the hard decisions any other way than to just start, real steady, preaching the gospel to yourself. Find a way to tell yourself in those moments that there are people and experiences and joy ahead. Preach to yourself and then cry real hard afterward because sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same and The Fray wrote that before I did, but I don't think they'll mind if I borrow its truth. Make the hard decision. Do it for the grandkids.
Maybe you've already considered all of this. Maybe everything you've done in your life is map out your tomorrow and you're set now with everything you've ever dreamed. The struggle is to find a balance. Don’t miss today because you’re constantly living for tomorrow, but let the choices of today be underscored by your dreams for tomorrow.
Where do you want to be when you’re 60? Want a house with a back porch for drinking sweet tea with the love of your life? Cherish your relationship. Do what you can to help it flourish so you're still there at 60, in it ten times deeper than you are today. Want your kids to love you and still hang out with you? Show up for them over and over and over again. That’s all they really want anyway – not your money or your stuff. Take care of your body. Kick the addiction. Get out of the bad relationship or go all in on the one you know is right. Go to counseling. Connect. Learn. Let go of your pride. Tell your closest friends that you need them to help you dig your way out of whatever struggle you find yourself in right now, today. Find a way to serve others. Show up for people. Be vulnerable. Be brave. Do what you can to love well, and that includes yourself.
Maybe you'll never meet your grandkids. Maybe you won't even have them. But what will people say about you in 60 years? The man who _____. The woman who ______. I hope my grandkids know I ran a half marathon and that I thought of them the whole way.