Many moons ago, back when time and energy weren’t such rare commodities in my life, a dear friend and I decided we should run a marathon. While we did train for months, we clearly weren’t professionals, as seen from our very classy duct tape name tags. Remember, this was before LuluLemon and Target active wear made their entrance into the workout scene; back then, you wore crappy clothes to work out because you were, in fact, working out, which meant sweating, not winning a modeling contest. At least, that is what I tell myself to feel better when I see how awesome we looked!
After an agonizingly long run, when we were just about to cross the finish line to receive our well-earned applause, an 88 year old man crossed the finish line. The announcer said something to the effect of “And here comes such and such, this is his 90th marathon, folks!” The crowd erupted in cheers and two very tired runners only one quarter of his age slipped through under the radar, lost in the uproar of applause for Mr. Marathon. I’m not bitter about that, not one bit.
We clearly were never in the lead in that race, but losing the lead can be painful.
For most of my life, I was the top of the pack, the pace setter, the one fighting to keep the lead in real and imaginary races. I always found myself competing for the number one position in academics and athletics. My drivenness and need to be at the top was always deeply rewarded with scholarships, ribbons and accolades. I never dreaded report card day or try out day; on the contrary, I looked forward to any and every chance to be measured or scored. I found great security in success structures.
Until I stepped out of them.
I’ll never forget bringing my two toddlers under two to the wedding of a high school friend. I was the youngest mother at the wedding, and all of my other friends were pursuing graduate school or medical school or some coveted, high paying job. Someone who had known me most of my life approached me, saying “You are the last person on earth I would have thought would choose to be a mother so soon.”
At that moment, I realized I had chosen to lose the lead. As a dear friend reminds me all the time, when one chooses to be a full-time mother, one steps outside of a well-built success structure. Not only are we losing the lead, we find ourselves out of the race. It took me a few years of mothering to adjust to life outside the visible success structure, and to this day, I still have moments (or months) when I long for a clearly defined raise, position, award or accolade.
During this past decade of losing the lead and stepping out of the race, I have found myself continually surprised by the abundance of life that exists out here in no man’s land.
Parenting has completely changed my pace from an all-out sprint to an often painfully slow stroll. Ribbons have been replaced by hours spent digging for worms in the garden; pay checks have been replaced with coupon clipping and field trip chaperoning. I have added no accolades to my resume, which hasn’t changed much since my graduation from college. I haven’t used the degree that I studied for hours to obtain outside of explaining photosynthesis or teaching binomial nomenclature to my three sons.
Yet, in my tenure outside of society’s success structure, I have gained life that I never dreamed possible. There are still days that are agonizingly boring and humbling, but on those days, I ask the Holy Spirit and my dear friends to remind me that this race that I have chosen is well worth the costs.
Instead of finding my security in measurable success, He is teaching me to find great confidence and purpose in my identity in Him. In His eyes, this is the highest success.