Crossing over into Mile 17 of the Livestrong Austin Marathon, we entered a wilderness stretch. Having run down from the capital, through south austin, tarrytown, west austin, now we crossed onto a 1.5 mile stretch of road bordering Mopac, a wilderness stretch, a long stretch with few fans, no water stops and wind.
This was the beginning of the wall coming down on my running partner and me. Scott and I felt great at 10 miles, good at the half, strong through the hills of 13-15 miles, but then the wilderness hit, and it hit hard.
I had not intended to run a second marathon. Having run the Twin Cities in 2008, surviving record warm temps and humidity, and surviving to finish I figured that was good. I knew the time investment running 26.2 cost. The hours of training, the time away from family. But my friend wanted to run, so we ran. And about 18 miles in we entered the wilderness and the wall started coming down.
How often in leadership, in life, do we start toward a goal feeling strong? Even halfway in we feel confident we are going the right direction and things feel good, we have ups and downs, we get stressed but survive and think the worst is over, only to hit a wall.
My Dad told us that morning as we set out to "enjoy the journey." And for about 18 miles we indeed were enjoying the journey, but then it got hard, really really hard. At that point, what I needed wasn't to enjoy the journey, but clearly understand the goal. To know how far it was, how each step was bringing us closer to the goal.
Moses knew the goal, the promised land. In the midst of 40 years in the wilderness he had to keep the people focused on that goal. While my marathon lasted around 5 hours, Moses' lasted 40 years. How often did he struggle, did he doubt? How often did Miriam have to sing a song, or Aaron give an inspiring speech to get them through the day?
While the journey of leadership is good, and has its points of grace, I believe to effectively lead through the inevitable trials we must know what the goal is. We must set that vision out in front of ourselves. Be clear on where we are going, what will success be, or else in the midst of the pain of the wilderness, when the wall drops down, we will fail.
So what is your goal? What is mine? Scott and I accomplished our goal on Sunday. We crossed the finish line, received our medals, took the pictures. But now what? We better figure that out, because the wilderness is coming. Lent is coming, temptation is coming. So what is next?
In the midst of this wilderness, I am reminded yet to give thanks to God, who has accomplished the greatest goal. While Moses never entered the promised land, the people did. Perhaps this is some perspective. Our goals are important, yet the greatest goal has been achieved, life eternal has been granted and each week we get that foretaste of the feast to come. In the midst of mile 18, a council meeting, a master planning session, we need that perspective. God has come and brings life and hope. The wilderness is part of the journey, but the end is Christ.