My eight-year-old son Alex asked to push the cart during a recent trip to Target with me. I had my reservations, but I agreed. I kept guiding the cart, but he insisted he could handle it on his own. I walked ahead when all of a sudden, he slammed the cart into me so that the metal undercarriage hit me hard directly on my ankle bone. The pain shot through me and almost dropped me to my knees. Obviously, it was an accident, and Alex immediately apologized. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I was just trying to catch up.” For the record, I was only a couple of steps in front of him, but he’d nevertheless felt the need to speed up so that he could keep up.
We do the same thing sometimes. We fix our eyes on someone who appears to be ahead of us. We believe they have a better career, a better family, a better financial situation, a better life. And once we have them in sight, we rush headlong to try and model ourselves after them. After a while, we may forget why we chose to chase after these particular people, if we even asked that question in the first place. We fall into the comparison trap, and we never assess whether our true desires match those we’re trying to catch.
While we pursue success like we observe others achieving, we may never reach a point where we feel we’ve won the imaginary race. The people we’re running after probably have no idea that they are setting the pace that dictates our choices. We don’t slam into them with our efforts. Instead, when we barrel blindly ahead, we are the ones who usually end up bruised and broken. We may keep going even when we feel empty and unfulfilled because we think it’s too late to change course. We may be limping but still we continue to hurt ourselves by running after others.
But God doesn’t want us to spend our lives chasing after the dreams or success of others. The Bible references the imagery of running races several times. In one of those instances, the Bible says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2. We need to train our focus on God and the path that we feel God wants for us to follow. Not the route others think we should adopt; not the direction the culture recommends; not the one that others establish and we merely mimic. If we fix our eyes on Jesus and pray for guidance, we can better determine the specific race marked for us and persevere in staying the course.
God doesn’t want us to merely do what everyone else is doing. God asks for us to seek Him and then chase the individual lives and dreams He helps us discover. What a relief that we do not need to be like anyone else, but only who God calls us to be.