The Next Step

 “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

(Proverbs 13:12)

I recently entered a couple of writing contests, and I am about to send off a couple of proposals to publishers. I am reluctant to get my hopes up because being a writer, by nature of the beast, means getting rejected on a regular basis. Still, it can be tiring to get up and try again and again. It can make your heart sick, but when you do get published, it replenishes your spirit and the desire to keep working. The result is worth all the work I put forth, but it still requires effort on my part to reach my desired goal.

The book of Joshua tells the story of how the children of Israel have finally left the wilderness to take the Promised Land. The goal is in sight, but there are a long list of opponents between them and the finish line. They start out strong and have great success, but as they move into the land they lose momentum. Maybe the battles were starting to take their toll, or the people lost sight of the goal. So, Joshua tries to fire up the Israelites.

 “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?” (Joshua 18:3)

They needed to complete what they had started. This scripture was in my daily reading just as I was struggling with some writing deadlines. Starting a project is always exciting, but the difficult part is to keep plodding through the middle. I realized that if I ever wanted to see the desire of publication come to fruition, I had to keep moving forward. I couldn’t let fear of failure or apathy keep me from my goal. I needed to take the next step, complete the next task, until I finished the assignment.

We all have those days where apathy gets the better of us. There are days when we would rather be a sloth on the couch than a tortoise that moves steadily toward the finish line. On those days we need to stop thinking about all the things that need to be done to reach the goal. Instead, we need to just focus on the next step. If every day we take one step, then every day we are one day closer to the finish line. 

When you find yourself struggling to take the next step, imagine what it will be like when you cross the finish line. Then we will realize that all the days we struggled were worth the effort. So, as you look at the day ahead, what one step can you take toward your goal? Do that. The satisfaction that you get from completing that task will compel you forward to the next one until you see the finish line ahead.

Marathon Mentality

Hanging Out

It usually happens at least a few times a week if not a few times a day. Meep will suddenly jump off the couch and burst into a run, tearing through the house at breakneck speeds. She often takes laps through the house, or sometimes it is suicide run in a straight line. Sometimes the other cats join in. It lasts for several minutes and then stops as suddenly as it started, followed by a thorough bath and a series of naps in various locations throughout the house.

On other occasions, the three cats will combine forces, especially when uninvited guests enter the picture. Whether it is a mouse or just a bug, the three cats will take turns stalking their prey with patience and diligence. One night in particular I found all three surrounding my piano, each one covering an avenue of escape. I later found them in the same position around the refrigerator. The next morning their attack plan was proven effective when I found their prey, an unfortunate mouse, belly up in the middle of the floor. The cats were inordinately pleased with themselves. It had taken all night, but they had achieved their goal.

There are times in life that call for a sprint, a quick surge of adrenaline in an emergency situation, but for the most part, life is a marathon. It takes patience and pacing, like the cats hunting for their prey. Those two traits are rare in today’s society, where people are always in a hurry to reach their goals and get to the top any way they can.

Tortoise and HareMost people are familiar with the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. The hare was a sprinter who was always bounding off and then getting distracted. The tortoise moved at a steady pace, keeping the goal in mind as he moved forward. He wasn’t distracted by what was going on in the world around him, especially not the hare. In the end, the tortoise won the race because his focus was on crossing the finish line to the best of his ability, not on what the hare was doing.

As Christians, life is mostly a marathon which is more in keeping with the attitude of the tortoise than the hare. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The world is weighed down by doubts and fears, but Christians know the end of the story. We are victorious through the sacrifice of Christ, and we strive each day to follow in his footsteps as we run our race.

Life is a marathon; therefore, we need to train like a marathon runner. So, as the hares of the world go bouncing off in a million directions announcing the end of the world, keep moving forward toward the goal of becoming more like Christ, one step at a time. Because we know: “that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3b-5). We have hope because we know that Christ has gained the victory for us. If we keep our eyes on him who is our goal, the worries of the world will fade from view. Like the tortoise and the cats, we too will reach the goal if we run with patience the race before us.