During the summer, I took a trip to the United States. While there, I was blessed to meet with many old friends and new friends that I miss now that I am back in Perth, Scotland. Of course, one of the critical elements when meeting people in the States is that you eat together, and health food is not the forte of our American cousins. The trouble is that I was meeting with so many people, (and the food was so good!) that by the end of my time in the US I had gained a not insignificant amount of weight. When my suit didn’t fit properly I decided I was going to do something about this weight and so I dusted off my trainers and started running regularly. Well, semi-regularly.
When I started running, at a local park in Perth, I noticed an older couple who would be there every time I was. I was able to overtake them easily, even though I have not run in a long time, and I could see their bright white trainers from the High Street. However, I couldn’t help but be impressed by their commitment and upbeat attitude. Every time I passed them by they'd smile and nod. A couple of times they were finishing their run just as I was about to begin and we’d talk for a bit.
One day, I pushed myself a bit too hard and was taking some time to recover (or die … whichever came first) and this older couple caught up. Mrs Smith asked me if I’d done a bit too much and I told her I had. With a knowing smile, she said she had seen me speed up after another guy had run passed. This lady, with her bright white trainers and off brand running gear, had seen me trying to compete with others and where it had gotten me; sitting on the grass dreading having to walk the short distance home.
Then, Mrs Smith, still smiling, said;
‘There’s always someone better than you, some people pass me twice and you passed me today. I’m used to it because I have to stop sometimes and so does he,’
Mrs Smith pointed at Mr Smith, who was still about 100 metres away, before continuing;
‘But, I’m not really bothered, I’m happy if I’m just a bit faster than yesterday. just a bit fitter than when I started and I can look forward to being a bit better again tomorrow,’
I had compared myself to others and ended up discouraged and exhausted because of my own failings, shortcomings and lack of fitness and I often feel the same way about my faith. I get so caught up in what I should be doing compared with someone else, or where I should be because someone else is so far ahead in my eyes. Everyone else seems to be running so fast sometimes and I am sometimes struggling to even tie my laces!
But, the thing is that God hasn’t called me to compare myself to others, but to train myself to follow the example of His Son every day.
‘For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come,’ (1 Timothy 4:8)
That night, on Instagram, an Italian football player, who had recently returned from injury, posted a picture of himself with the caption ‘Piu forte di prima’ or ‘Stronger than before’. The timing for me was perfect. All of us, as Christians, have been injured. Sin sick souls we came to Christ to be saved and live a new life. We are hurt people, people with a need for His continued support and guidance. So, instead of hobbling ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, let us commit to being just a bit faster than yesterday, just a bit fitter than when we started and a bit better again tomorrow.
Instead of trying to be someone else, let us devote ourselves to being stronger than before.