A few years ago I was on a run with an incoming high school freshman. It was just before school was starting, and she was about to start her first season on the cross country team. The Olympics had recently ended and we were discussing how amazing some of the women had done in their races. At one point she said to me “I’m never gonna be the best, and that’s okay.” And I told her “I was never the best either, but boy was it fun to run.”
I ran one year in high school, and then miraculously got onto the distance running team at Chico State. I was consistently last in our team workouts, and actually only made the Conference team once, and nationals never. However, just because I wasn’t the best didn’t mean that my time there wasn’t worth it. And it doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying to be better. Believe me, I did the best I could do. I struggled with an IT band injury that cut short most of my seasons at Chico State, and, in between injuries, I couldn’t quite get my head on straight to believe in myself and run the times I should have been running.
But again, none of that meant that I wasn’t there for a reason, that I wasn’t doing God’s best in the moments I was given. Sometimes we can watch the people who are the best in our field of influence and want so badly to be them. We can even say things like “if only I was better at _____, then I could do ______ for God.” But we don’t have to be the best. If we really look at what God asked of us in His word, it was never to be the best. In fact, most of the time it was to be last:
“…The last shall be first…” (Matthew 20:16)
“…He must become greater, and I must become less…” (John 3:30)
“…whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…” (Matthew 16:24)
“…blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:5)
If I spent my entire college career yearning to be the best and focusing on the fact that I was not, I would have missed many opportunities to be the best for the Lord. I may have never lined up on the starting line at Cross Country Nationals, but I was there every year, painted from head to toe in Chico State’s colors, cheering my heart out. I didn’t ever win a race, but I was there to give encouragement to those who did. I may have never gotten onto any top ten lists, but I did PR in the 5k my senior season by 38 seconds, and my teammates and coach had never been so excited for me as they were in that moment.
Maybe you’ve never been the boss of anything, but you’ve been working hard in your current job and doing everything in your power to excel.
Maybe you’ve never felt like an all-star parent, but you’re showing up every day and loving your children the best that you can.
And maybe you’ve never felt the best at your biggest and boldest dreams, but I promise you taking those tiny steps-even if you fail- is all the success God is asking of you.
And maybe in your failures, He’s asking you to do something
Because I never won a race, I was also there to give encouragement to those who were struggling. I was in the ice bath daily with others who had to stop workouts midway or miss races just like me. I was in the swimming pool aqua jogging for morning practice instead of running the standard 3-4 miles, and I was doing it with others who were resigned to the same. I used those moments to build relationships, encourage, and love people when things were tough because I lived it.
And because you’re not the best in your given field, you’re accessible, relatable, and humble. You’re someone that others who struggle can come to for advice, guidance, and consolation. You are someone who can share how God has walked with you in hard times, and they can relate. God is not disappointed in your availability, in your consistency, and in your effort. He is not disappointed in you.
All those times I was disappointed in myself for my failures as a runner, God wasn’t. He was proud of me for stepping up to the line again and again. He was proud of me for showing up to every race to cheer on my teammates regardless of my own anger and disappointments. He is always proud that even when we aren’t the best we are doing His best.