Saturday, April 11, 2015

Marathon Parenting

Once upon a time I was working my way toward becoming a long distance runner.  After the birth of my fourth child I decided it was time to get in shape, and my best friend convinced me to start running with her. Eventually she convinced me to run a 5K race with her.  I thought she was crazy, but I agreed to do it and so we started training.

The first few weeks of training were miserable.  We would start to jog and immediately my lungs would start screaming at me.  With gasping breaths I begged Kathy to let me stop.  But she wouldn't do it.  She pushed me to make it to the end of the block, and then to the next mailbox.  Every day the goals got a little farther apart and she pushed me to run a little bit harder.  After what felt like months (but was probably only weeks) she was cheering me on as I finished my first mile.  Soon we were running side by side on the treadmills at the gym and I was the one encouraging her to go one more minute, to finish one more quarter mile.  By the time we ran the 5K, she urged me to run on without her, and I completed the 3.1 miles several minutes ahead of her.  One thing is for sure: I could never have accomplished any of it without her support.

Training for that race was hard work.  It was exhausting and painful, and sometimes I just wanted to give up.

I've been thinking this week how much my job as a parent is like training for that race.

It's exhausting and it's certainly not easy.  Sometimes it's discouraging and downright heartbreaking.  There are times when I pray with desperate, gasping breaths, begging God for a break.  Times when I am weary and feel unable to take one more step, let alone go another mile.

And God reminds me: this race we're running, it's not just a 5K.  The finish line is not waiting three miles down the road.

No, the race we're running as parents is definitely a marathon.  And lest I become even more discouraged, He reminded me of this:
...but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

The hardest work of parenting, I think, isn't teaching my children the difference between right or wrong, or even teaching them to be nice to their siblings.  The most difficult part of parenting is consistently and diligently shaping their character so that it reflects the character of God.  It is enforcing Godly boundaries even when my children don't seem to respond with anything but disdain for me when I do.  It is waiting on God and trusting Him to form the hearts of these precious young people in His own time.

I want the race to be over after just a few miles, with a quick sprint to the finish line.

God says it takes a lifetime.

I don't think I can run this race.

But God says I can, and here's how:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.     ~ Hebrews 10:23

When Kathy and I first began training for our race, she would pick out a mailbox or a street sign down the road and push me to make it at least that far. As I was running I would fix my gaze on that goal, determined to make it without giving up.  That goal - that mailbox or sign post - gave me hope.  Without it, I stared ahead at what seemed like an endless road that I knew I couldn't conquer.  

Jesus is my goal, my hope in this parenting marathon.  When I'm feeling overwhelmed by the road ahead of me, it's because I've taken my eyes off of Him and focused instead on the challenges and difficulties of being a parent.  When I am weary and want to quit, it's time to realign my heart and mind so that they are fixed on my Savior.  In Him I will find the energy and strength to press forward.  He is my hope that I will make it to the finish line, and He will be faithful to see me through.

I'm no marathon runner.  In fact, I'm not even a 5K runner any more.  But I am the parent of four very special people who need me to press on in this race.  Even if they don't understand or appreciate how I'm running it, they need me to keep on.

And so I will continue putting one foot in front of the other, eyes and heart fixed on Jesus, determined to go the distance.


  1. Oh my goodness, how funny that I've been character building hard this week. My eleven year old daughter seems to think if she finds a good enough reason to justify her opinion, then it's okay to say or do anything. Those looks of disdain don't help - I can get miffed & start overexplaining or feel like I've been too harsh. Thanks for this timely post.

    1. Nadine, thanks for commenting. Keep running the race!


One-sided conversations are no fun. Post a comment and let's talk!