We’ve all heard the saying… “Life is not a sprint… it’s a marathon.” We’ve applied that to our organizations, getting in shape, building a meaningful relationship, and to leading our families. I am here to say… Parenting is not a marathon… it’s far more like a 24-hour Endurance Run. I have had the joy (and some pain) of running in more than thirty-five marathons. Some have been fun, some… not so fun. But they all had a clear start line and a specific finish line.
This summer I decided to participate in an event just to get a taste of what it was like. It was a 24-hour Endurance Run on a 1.1 mile loop course. I know… insane. Please don’t quit reading yet. This is going somewhere (and not just in a circle!). The funniest thing of all was that the second song on my random Spotify playlist was the song “Round and Round” by the 80’s hairband Ratt (please don’t judge me), but that seemed quite hilarious considering I would be doing the same thing for the next several hours. My intention was to run for 12 hours, but after 7.5 hours, my body was done. I made it 39 miles and threw in the towel.
At that point in the race, I was “ahead” of a lot of people. By the end of the 24 hours, I finished almost dead last! All of the “slow” people kept going, kept plodding… hour after hour. Some of them completed 100+ miles and almost all of them completed more than I did. It was a humbling event and one in which I learned the value of patience and steady plodding. It was a great reminder for me as a father of four that the journey of parenting does not come with an obvious start and finish line.
I think as a father, I’d like my role to come with more certainties. I’d like certain risks to be removed and I’d love for many of my worst fears to simply vanish instantaneously. What my crazy and insane running event is teaching me is that God has invited me into a role that will require a lot of slow and steady plodding. I often want the “problems” of parenting to “go away”… but the race continues on. Will I have the courage to slow down and take small little steps when that is what is required?
I love The Message translation of Hebrews 12:
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
Parenting is an amazing opportunity that God is using in my life (and I’m guessing yours) to transform us more and more–to be like Jesus. Is it easy? Not at all! Is it a sprint? Hardly! Will we embrace it and allow God to use parenting to shape US – His children?
Hang in there, take the next step and endure!