Athlete, Focus Along the Journey
Hebrews 12:1,2 (ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
There’s a stretch of road on the northbound 5 freeway in San Clemente, California, where my dad taught me how to drive. It wasn’t my first time driving, but it was my first taste behind the wheel on an open freeway.
You don’t have to be from Southern California to know that driving local, especially for beginners, is one thing — the journey is incremental, punctuated generously with stop signs and traffic lights.
But there are no stop signs on the 5; that freeway is a thousand-some stretch of road. Southern Californians apparently think it’s their version of the Autobahn, and will hit the pedal to the metal accordingly.
So you can imagine how petrified I was the first time I found myself behind the wheel on the freeway, where I was immediately overwhelmed with all the stimuli around me — was I going too fast? Too slow? What would I do if someone cut me off?
The cars in the surrounding lanes suddenly felt uncomfortably close, and I didn’t know how to handle this new scene.
Sensing my anxiety, my dad said to me, “Look far ahead!”
And surprisingly, it was as easy as that. Of course, not all my nerves dissolved at once, but this seemingly small and subtle shift in focus removed the burden I was placing on every neuron in my body.
I wasn’t worried about the cars next to me, doing their own thing in their own lane; instead, I was able to see the journey ahead of me, the path before my wheels, and able to steadily move my way onward. Keeping my eyes focused on a spot far off in the distance suddenly enabled me to drive with ease.
Living in New York, I don’t drive nearly as often as I used to. But I still find myself heeding my dad’s advice whenever I’m feeling frazzled or weighed down. “Look far ahead” — it’s something I tell myself when I feel bogged down on mile eight of a half marathon, and it’s a potent tweak for improving my form and focus even in a quick three-miler.
And it’s probably because of these physical, visceral experiences I’ve had when it comes to focus-shifting, that I am struck so powerfully by these words from the writer of Hebrews 12:1 “… and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”
The author then gives such a powerful picture of this, from Jesus’ own life: “… who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.“
What a relief it is to know that we are not taught to run this race for the sake of the race. That might be fine and all, but what great news it is that we persevere in the journey with our eyes fixed on the One who loves us and helps us in our need.
And how encouraging it is to know that our Savior, too, endured for the joy set before Him, knowing His journey was for something beyond the immediate present.
Reflect: What kind of journey comes to mind when you think about perseverance in your life? Is it a race, a career goal, or just everyday living? Where do you need to tweak your focus in that journey?
A prayer to consider: Lord, thank You for being so humble, to endure for God and for us, and for giving us the focus to do the same. I ask You today to help me persevere and to keep my eyes on You as I press onwards in my journey today.