The people who say, “X is not a sprint, it’s a marathon” haven’t completed marathons. I think they mean that a project or a process or a task will take a long time. What they are saying to some of us is, “This will take a long time, and you will be increasingly miserable during that time, and the training will make you miserable too, and you have many opportunities for injury, and by the end you may be barely able to walk, and even professionals sometimes puke.”
I thought about that while talking to a friend about the process of aging. There is less and less that comes easy. We have to choose our battles, choose our efforts, even choose what we choose about.
I’m talking with friends who care about and for other people. They are getting forgetful, getting discouraged, getting sad, getting weary. “There’s no particular reason I’m anxious,” they say. “There’s no particular reason I should be sad,” they say.
I remind them that there is a global pandemic that has disrupted most elements of their lives, and that they spend all their working time (and most of their waking time (and a percentage of their sleeping time)) helping people adjust and grieve and survive. I remind them that we are in a compassion marathon.
And that comes at a cost. Who helps my friends be able to help?
One writer draws on the image of running. Run the race that is laid out for you, the writer says. Drop all the things that weigh you down and that trip you up.
(In other words, run the path, not the digressions. And run your path, not someone else’s. Abandon the unnecessary expectations, the obligations imposed by non-runners. Let go of the flawed thinking and behaviors that get you caught in a loop).
And then, look at Jesus who, in a marathon, went all the way to the death. On purpose. And came back to help us with ours.
It is hard, this marathon. Find encouragement in the face of one who doesn’t deny the reality but acknowledges it.