Once upon a time I was pretty fast. I was part of a championship-caliber relay team and could hold my own in the individual races as well. Before you become too impressed by my athleticism, know that this was in high school. One of the things, besides raw speed, that set our relay team apart was our almost scientific approach to handoffs. You see, in high school most handoffs between runners happen as the next runner is almost standing still. In the cases where the teams practice their timing so that the next runner can just take off, most runners still look over their shoulders slowing them down.
But we had our timing down... mostly. I ran the third leg of our 4x100 team. I would watch for the second runner to hit a mark and I'd take off full speed. After three steps I'd blindly put my hand back and the second runner would be right there to pass off the baton. I would then be responsible for playing catch-up to the fourth runner, AKA the anchor leg as he would take off and extend his hand back towards mine.
My sophomore year our team consisted of myself, two juniors and a senior. We won more often than we lost and we frequently flirted with the school record. So we all knew if we wanted the record and win state, it had to be that year. In fact we did beat the record. More than once. But those never counted because we were often disqualified.
The reason so many runners at that level wait for the handoff or look backwards to make sure they cleanly exchange the baton is because there is a short length of track in which the handoff must take place. If it doesn't, you're DQ'ed. And it's not that easy when you're running roughly 20 miles per hour. You also have to stay in your lane. Two consecutive steps on or over the line would also result in a disqualification. And when two of the four legs of the relay happened on curves, this happened more often than not.
If you were DQ'ed, you wouldn't know until the race was over. So you could run at a breakneck pace through the finish (or handoff), raise your arms in victory, and find out later that none of it counted.
Ultimately, we didnt win state (we took second) and we never did beat the record.
Chapter seven of Kyle Idleman's book, Not a Fan, "the relationship defined" calls our attention to Matthew 7:13-14 which warns,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Back to my earlier illustration, narrow is the lane on the racetrack, and short is the exchange so many are disqualified. Worse, they don't know until the race is over.
There is no worse feeling than completing a race to only find out later it didn't count. In the spiritual race of which Paul frequently alludes, disqualification has eternal consequence.
Kyle Idleman suggests we slow down and make sure we are in the right lane. Good advice, but how do we know for sure? Kyle emphasizes our genuine relationship wit Jesus, fast-forwarding to verse 23 where Jesus says what we all hope to never hear, "away from me evil doer, I never knew you." But he skips over the fine print in verse 21, "Not everyone will... enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
It is tempting to turn our spiritual walk into running as fast as we can. We need to slow down. Check our lane and ask the honest, hard question, "am I doing God's will?" If not, it doesn't matter how fast we run or in what place we finish. Once we cross the finish line we will find out we were disqualified. And then, it will be too late.
This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.