In sports there’s always been this idea of streaks, or curses such as the billy goat curse on the Chicago Cubs, or the Minnesota Vikings who’ve lost four Super Bowls. I’ll admit, in running I’ve sometimes imposed streaks or patterns on my races. Notice I say imposed, that meaning there really was no curse, it was obviously all in my head. Last year when I hit this time in the season I had a few rough races and remember thinking I couldn’t explain why I felt this way. When you’re training hard, doing all the little things, and continually returning to the line only to fall short of your goals its easy to say there was some kind of “bad luck” involved. However, last year I learned to push through my sort of “mid-season slump” and come back strong for Regionals and NCAAs.
Last weekend I raced in Virginia after coming off a high note from Stanford, (a 3 second PR in the 1500m at 4:10) and knew I need to keep my momentum going and not let my head get in the way. If I go way back to “Middle-School-Amanda” I probably would have lined up for the Virginia race assuming something would go wrong because back then I had this theory not to expect anything great following a good race. Crazy huh? The fact that I would actually line up and expect less than the week before makes no sense! But being the slightly OCD me, I really did have this theory that my season was supposed to follow a pattern of: great race…ok race…great race..ok race… Luckily, I’ve outgrown that foolish thought process and have learned that you have to go into the race with complete faith regardless of circumstance.
The other day my friend Denise asked me, “What is faith?”
“Tough question!” was my response, but if you look at Hebrews 11 you can find a pretty clear answer. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Confidence is obviously key to running well. Without confidence on the line, you’ve already set yourself up for less than your best. The hard part of course, is that you cannot see what lies ahead in life, and nothing is guaranteed. Therefore there will always be some anxiety about the unknown, whether it be about making a final in a meet or worrying about what to do after college. As much as you can try to picture things and imagine them going perfectly, the reality is they may not. But faith on the other hand can be controlled by our own minds. Faith is a choice, a feeling, a belief. Faith is not based upon circumstances or streaks.
Faith in God and His plans works the same way. Some people expect to receive some radical sign when they accept Christ as their savior, and when they aren’t able to “see” God like we see the world around us, they lose faith. But the reality is, you cannot lose faith if you never have it, and to have faith you have to be confident in something you have NOT seen. Although I myself know it’s not easy to learn to compete with total confidence and faith, but yet any accomplished athlete does this all of the time. In order to succeed in any area of life, one must exhibit some characteristics of faith. Yet, so many people find it impossible to believe in God without “seeing” Him.
The problem is, if we could see everything laid out in front of us, there would be no such thing as life as we know it. Imagine stepping up to the starting line and knowing you’re going to get 5th place and run 3 seconds off your PR and nothing you do will make that change. If that were the case, no one would race. Now imagine if God was there before you every day in a way that you couldn’t possibly deny His existence. If this were life, there would be no need for faith, no choice in what to believe, and we would not have the freedom of which makes us human beings. What must be realized is that faith is not a curse, it is a gift. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”-John 20:29.
In the past, I’ve gone into races worried about how things might not work out. There were a lot of races in which I did not have faith. In the same way, there have been times in my life where my belief in God, or in His plans have been shaken. However, I have learned that despite circumstances, evidence, or apparent streaks of bad luck, nothing can shake your faith if it is strong enough.
Over the years I’ve learned to finally put my faith to practice and trust that the best scenario will occur. Sometimes the scenario I imagine still doesn’t play out, but somehow in the end everything works out just how it was meant to be. As I finished my 1500m at Virginia after also running in the 800m I was somewhat upset that neither race went as well as I’d hoped and believed it would. But as I was about to stomp off the track, I looked up and saw a double rainbow in the sky. Immediately I had a flashback exactly four years ago to my senior year in high school state meet. I finished that race with a state record, a smile on my face and a rainbow overhead. What I remember most about that race though was that I went into it with complete and total confidence, and it played out like a dream. The other weekend in Virginia my races did not exactly play out like a dream, but when I saw that rainbow I couldn’t help but smile and thank God for how much he has blessed me in the last four years. More than anything, one thing God has taught me is that you will not win every race you hope to, but you can always go into it with the faith that you can, and faith can override any “impossibles.” There’s really no such thing as streaks of bad luck, but it is possible to continuously live and compete with streaks of faith. Living a life of spiritual faith does not mean life will be easy. There will constantly be streaks of negativity, disbelief and disapproval all around you. But if you stand firm with true faith, nothing can stop that and true faith never has to end.