Running the Race


By Tim Woods, Logic School Director

Having grown up a fan of the Missouri Tigers, I’ve watched plenty of football, good and bad. With Mizzou’s recent conference realignment to the Southeastern Conference (SEC), I’ve gained a newfound interest in things below the Mason-Dixon Line. One of those things is the football giant that is Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Having won 5 National Championships and countless other football games, it would be safe to assume that this guy knows a thing or two about pushing through adversity. He iterated his thoughts regarding a recent University of Alabama quarterback who sought to transfer schools when he was denied a spot on the starting lineup:

“There’s certain things that I was taught growing up about not quitting and seeing things through. I think if I would have come home and told my dad that I was going to quit the team, I think he would have kicked me out of the house. I don’t think I’d have a place to stay….”My dad used to always say ‘The grass is always greener on top of the septic tank,’ so it always looks better someplace else. So you think, instead of facing your fears and really overcoming adversity and making yourself better through the competition, you go someplace else thinking it will be better there. But until you face your fears, you’re always going to have some of those issues or problems.”

Now, we will forgive Coach Saban on this one. He’s getting up there in years and may have forgotten that he left the Miami Dolphins for his current job at Alabama with three years left on his contract. There may always be hypocrisy in the world of college football, and Saban’s another cog in that machine, but maybe we can still take some insight into the Christian life from his thoughts.

The first thought that immediately comes to mind is the human heart. Saban is picking up on something that, if we’re honest, probably festers in our hearts on a consistent basis. The festering disease is that of comfort. If you were to ask me if I would repeat high school for any amount of money, I would respond with a firm “no.” I would say this not because I wouldn’t learn a lot by revisiting that period in my life, or because I wouldn’t enjoy seeing some dear friends that have since parted ways, but simply because high school was difficult. I will confess that my sophomore and junior years in high school were the most challenging academically, socially, and spiritually that I ever had in my life (short of maybe the Spring semester of my freshman year of college, but more on that later). There were many times when I felt discouraged or downright outraged because of how much and how challenging our work was. Now, in retrospect, the work was not comparatively harder than many other schools, but to a 16-17 year old it really seemed that way!

However, God was faithful. He brought me through and I found myself at the University of Missouri’s Classics program. My second semester in college I thought it would be smart to take Honors Greek, Honors Humanities, and a graduate-level History class as an elective (amongst other courses). Suffice it to say, after some solid lessons learned, and often being carried by God, I slogged through that too, (even the painful lesson of dropping a scholarship by 0.06 of a GPA point).

I’m writing now on the dangers of comfort because I’ve made it past all that now and I feel the pull to slow down, kick my feet up and ease off the gas. I wrote about the need for rest over the summer because we as Christians can easily ignore the good gift of rest that God has in place for us in the fullness of time He has for us. But, on the other hand, we are called to great efforts on behalf of our Father in Heaven. Society tells us that if we just work hard in school, go to college, get a job and work it till retirement, there is a peaceful pasture coming ahead, where work is but an afterthought. But let us remember that work is not sinful. God made us to work, (read Genesis 1:28 and following if you don’t believe me). What is an aspect of sin are the physical, emotional and spiritual burdens that cause us to villainize the effort we pour into our godly vocations.

So as I write this, on the eve of another TCS Cross Country race, the metaphor of the Christian life as a race spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 seems especially appropriate in this instance. We’re all running a race in our call to godly living.

It is important to note that Paul makes a distinction for why we run as well, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Cor. 9:25) Our society runs the rat race to end in some sort of comfort that is associated with non-work, (negotium in Latin, leisure as a simple denial of work). When we reach the end of a leg of a race, it is good to rest for a time, but let us not deny the search for adversity to be overcome, since even diamonds are born from intense heat and pressure. Just as one of TCS’s house mottos reminds us, “Fire tests gold.”