When I was in ninth grade, I was convinced by my gym teacher to enter 100 metre and 400 metre sprinting races at the upcoming track meet. It was a last minute decision and so I didn’t have more than a couple days to train but I didn’t really care too much. It was a small meet with only a few schools and the ribbons were only for bragging rights.
The 100 metre races were easy. I came second in my heat and my time was fast enough to move on again and then again to finals where I placed fifth overall.
Then came the 400 metre race. I was lined up in one of the central lanes and absorbed all adrenaline I had, pouring it into my muscles. If I was a rocket, I’d be ready for take off.
The gun cracked and I took off. Fast. I wanted to win. Nothing else mattered outside of the race.
I reached 100 metres easily.
200 and my muscles burned.
By 250 metres, winning the race didn’t matter. I just wanted to cross the finish line. I wanted it to be over. I wish I had never started. My lungs ached for air.
My friends in the bleachers yelled at me to keep going, to pick up my pace—but I couldn’t. No mater how hard I tried, no matter the amount of concentration I put into speeding up, nothing happened. My top speed was rapidly declining and there was nothing I could do about it.
The last 50 metres were utter torture. My vision started going black, I couldn’t breath.
I finally crossed the finish line and instantly recognized my mistake: I had started running too fast and paid for it. Running 400 metres as if it were my other 100 metre sprints was absolutely foolish.
A lot of our lives look my 400 metre race. We’re presented with a challenge (or many challenges) and hit the ground running. We go all out, pushing ourselves to our last limits before the race is even over. Why? Because we want to win, because we don’t want to walk away like a coward. We sprint right at the sound of the gun because lack of sleep and a full schedule has somehow become a badge of honour.
I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before but maybe you need to hear it again. Those fiveAM mornings wear you out and you know it. Maybe you don’t eat breakfast either and start the day like some zombie or a sleep-walker. You know that really tired almost drunk feeling you get when you’re sleep-deprived? It really is like being drunk. Studies show that a sleep deprived person on the road is just as dangerous as an intoxicated driver. Did you know that?
Hours go by in your day and days go by and then weeks—you keep going and going and going until you’re exhausted and can’t go any further. You’re not the energizer bunny. And even so, the energizer bunny can’t go on forever either. Eventually someone needs to change his batteries.
You’re running so fast that the world around you is a blur. You can’t watch or enjoy life’s little moments because everything is kicked into high gear. But that high gear will lose it’s power and you’ll find that you’re days off are recovery days, prepping you for the next race.
When was the last time your vacation was a time you could just enjoy yourself and have the energy to enjoy it without the thought that it was a time to recover?
Students, do your future plans that everyone asks you about include downtime? Or is it all about your job and reaching your ambitions?
Adults, between your career and your family, are you just pushing until retirement? Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?
The funny thing is, I can’t remember where I placed in that race. All I remember is the agony of the last stretch. Does that say something about our struggle too? If we wear ourselves thin, will the end even be worth it? Even if we come in ‘first’ place, will we care? Or will we just remember the sleepless nights and the near-miss mental breakdowns?
This busy lifestyle that society has somehow accepted is affecting us. Our relationships, our sleep, our joy…our time with God.
The reward we can receive from God is much, much greater than that worthless badge of honour you get from a full calendar and a lack of sleep. So if you don’t know where to start, turn to him and ask him to grant you rest and peace.
Despite what you might think, you don’t have to live your entire life like you’re running out of steam at the end of a 400 metre race. Take some time to pace yourself, slow down and breath.
Oh great God give us rest
We’re all worn thin from all of this
At the end of our hope with nothing left
Oh great God give us rest