I had the grand idea several years ago of proving the legitimacy of my recertification as an ACE personal trainer by doing a middle-distance aquathlon (triathlon without the biking portion)—a 1500-meter swim immediately followed by a 5-mile run—during my kids’ nap time. The inevitable pondering happened just four laps into the swim: “Maybe I can shorten the running portion to three miles instead of five.”
Distractions are mental poison for any athlete. Conversely, a key to athletic success—whatever the sport—is focus. Concentration. Whatever you want to call it. That ability to keep one’s mind fully engaged in what is in front of him without being distracted by what has happened and what could possibly happen. That ability to live one moment at a time, one hour at a time. Or, in this case, not pondering cutting down my running distance while I was free-styling away in the water. In the end, the best way to prepare for the running leg is to focus on exhibiting proper form during the swimming leg so that you don’t waste necessary energy. After all, even the most gifted runners in aquathlon races have to accept that, for a good portion of a race like this, they’ll be swimming.
Needless to say, I finished the course.
And, the more I think about it from a bird’s eye view, that’s not such a bad thing.
Not a bad thing at all. The Bible does not forbid planning for the future, but it does warn against being so discouraged by the un-ideal nature of present season that we don’t give one’s best effort to our current responsibilities. Jeremiah was called to encourage the Jewish exiles through that sentiment. When would they be restored from captivity and returned to their Promised Land? When would their season as captive aliens come to an end? Jeremiah reminds them that their season in Babylon was not indefinite, but rather measured by God (Jer 29:10). And instead of constantly ruing the fact that they were not in their homeland for those seventy years, they were to do the following:
Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.Jeremiah 29:5-7
In other words, don’t stay sulking in resignation over this particular season of activity. Be productive, and give it your best. For in due time, this season will be over.
As Christians, just like natural runners navigating through the swim leg, we’ll find ourselves navigating through awkward and un-ideal seasons of life. They’re temporary un-ideal and awkward seasons, but seasons nevertheless. During these seasons, rather than sulking in resignation, living by faith shows itself in giving that particular season the best of our efforts no matter how much we may naturally dislike them.
God has a purpose for every segment of our lives, and every season exists for His glory. Thus, we ought not to waste such times with half-hearted efforts. Whether it’s the period of having to go through college before jumping into the working life, or having to work a job that you don’t necessarily like, or living in a particular state when you desire to be somewhere else, or living through years of singleness when you desire to be married and have a family, each season that we consider to be un-ideal ought to be redeemed for the glory of God. Each of these seasons ought to be given our full attention. There will be plenty of times when, with your long legs and breadstick arms (like mine), you’ll find yourself navigating through the swimming leg of the aquathlon. Youthful instinct says to rush into the next season as quickly as possible. Biblical wisdom says to focus—on one day at a time and one season at a time. Temporary seasons were never meant to be wasted, however short. The Lord has already directed our future paths, with our purpose in redemptive history already predetermined (Eph 2:10). All that’s left is to live each and every day that he gives us actively seeking his kingdom and righteousness, fueled by the joy of the gospel, and pressing onward toward his upward call in Christ.