The Race Set Before Me: A Daily Practice for Parents from Hebrews 12

“How’s life?” “Oh, you know, it’s busy!”

“I’m just so busy!”

I am actually tired of hearing myself say these things, even though sometimes I’m simply making an observation, not complaining. We are all busy, and I know that you don’t want to hear how busy I am because you, in fact, are just as busy. I actually love each of the commitments, people, and things that make my life so busy, or rather full. Yet, there are days when I am overwhelmed by it all.

Recently I have been reading and re-reading Hebrews 12:1-3. In the back-to-school, back-to-fall craziness, these verses have been like an oxygen mask to me. Hebrews 12:1-3, so simple and illustrative in its language, has changed my mindset from one that is focused on circumstances to one that is focused primarily on the Lord in my circumstances.

I use these verses to seek the Lord and focus my day practically. Hebrews 12:1-3 applies to our daily lives in a way that fosters dependence upon God as well as relationship with Him. This practice has been life-giving to me, and I hope it will be for you as well:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Laying Aside Our Weight and Sin

In the Christian life, we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses,” who encourage and point us to God. While our friends and family can certainly help us along the way, we must first rely upon the Lord to carry the ordinary and heavy circumstances of life. Hebrews 12, in fact, instructs us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” We cannot carry our burdens  alone, and we were never meant to.

 What is the “weight and sin” that comes to the forefront of my mind? What is the burden, worry, or the thing/person/event that feels the heaviest or hardest? Jot down what comes to your mind first, without passing judgment on yourself at all. God knows what weighs heaviest, no matter how ashamed of it you are, even if you think it shouldn’t matter or isn’t a big deal.  

Now that the burden is named, and I usually have several, I follow with what Scripture says. It instructs me to “lay [it] aside […] keeping your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.” Through prayer or journaling, I imagine sitting with Jesus. I hand him those burdens. Sometimes I don’t understand those worries and the emotions they bring. It feels like a ball of yarn that I cannot untangle. Yet, I give Jesus the tangled and intertwined mess. I’m reminded that He is the perfecter of my faith. Not me. I don’t have to untangle my emotions and clean them up before I bring them to Jesus.

My prayer might sound like, “Jesus I don’t know why I’m feeling this emotion, but I don’t have to, because you do. And I can trust you. So I am giving you this today.” It might sound like, “Jesus, forgive me for my anger at my husband, I don’t know (or maybe I do) why I acted like that.” Or, “Jesus, this child is making me crazy, and I am so worried I have messed this up. I’m giving you my child and trusting you with him.”

I have found that when I name what is weighing on me and remind myself I wasn’t meant to carry it alone, then I can refocus on who is going to carry the burden with me perfectly—Jesus. With my eyes on Jesus, who now is holding my burdens, I am less alone and overwhelmed. I am surrendering the thing that I often sought desperately to control to the Lord. My posture towards the Lord is that of surrender. With open hands I receive a willingness to be open to what he has for me that day.

Running Your Race

The writer continues, instructing us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” While the race  certainly refers to our    calling to glorify God in all that we do, it also speaks to the more unique roles and responsibilities we have in our daily lives.

The verse does not say to run the race that was set before your neighbor or your sister or the influencer on social media. In fact, when we compare our races with other people’s, it distracts us from our own race.

 My next step is to ask myself, what is the race that is set before me today—not tomorrow or next week—but today. In what situations, settings, or roles has God, in His sovereignty, placed me in today? And I write that down. I try to not make it an exhaustive list of my day, or it looks like the overwhelming to-do list. I aim for generalities and roles, with maybe a couple of specifics.

My race has been as simple and broad as “to be a wife and mother.” It has been as specific as “preparing the boys to leave for school,” “attending a PTO meeting,” or “working on wedding flowers.”    My next question is, “God what do you have to say about this?” I have been amazed at the power of Scripture to speak into these seemingly mundane tasks. “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes to mind when I think about caring for my family, “do everything as unto the Lord,” when I think about going to work.

When I recognize what my race is and what my role is, with my eyes still turned to Jesus and His word, I feel less overwhelmed by the day ahead. I am reminded to reflect on where God has specifically placed me in that day and to focus on the Lord who will perfect and sanctify. It is also a reminder that God does care about the “secular.” Every hour I volunteer, every meal I fix, every errand I run, every hour I work, is all holy, kingdom-work.

I am beginning to see how the habit of reflecting on my role and relying on the Lord is affecting my life throughout the day. When I feel my heart start to race When something goes awry and my heart starts to race, the Holy Spirit causes my spiritual muscle memory to kick in. I remember that Jesus holds my burdens. The situation at hand is not necessarily solved or less difficult, but my reoriented heart transcends the circumstance.

Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

Hebrews tells us to run with endurance, which can seem like a tall order when I am barely catching my breath. But he also tells us to look at “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Jesus establishes the Christian’s faith. My relationship with Jesus has always been a gift.

Jesus is also the perfecter of my faith. Jesus is refining and sanctifying me through his grace and presence in my very ordinary roles and circumstances. I can trust him to complete the work he has begun in me. I am reminded that the Lord is the perfecter—not me—so I don’t have to be perfect in my race because Jesus already was. I am called to endure while looking to my heavenly Father.

Hebrews 12 reminds me of who is in charge. And it is not me. Because of who he is, I have the freedom to come to him with open hands, tears in my eyes, and weariness in my bones. In coming to him, giving him my burdens, identifying my race, I have found a peace that surpasses the circumstances of the day. I don’t have to fix it; I don’t have to know what to do; I don’t have to even do or act perfectly. I simply am called to obey the Lord in the given role in the given race in which he has sovereignly placed me.

Dawson Cooper lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Wil, and three boys (ages 7,10, and 15). She graduated from Wake Forest University. While at Wake Forest, she began freelance writing for a local magazine. She has been writing for Rooted Ministry since 2017. She also works as a lead floral designer with Marigold Designs. Dawson and her family attend Covenant Presbyterian Church where she is involved with leading a youth small group. When she isn’t at or driving to her boys’ various games, school events, or activities, she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and enjoying a good meal with friends. 

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