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Lessons from the Bleachers: Patience, Perseverance, and Perspective on Life and Leadership

On a recent Saturday, I found myself at my freshman son’s high-school track meet. (Disclaimer: I didn’t grow up a “track guy.” I played football, basketball, and baseball. Sports that start and generally finish within two to three hours. Track meets are long. Like all-day long.)

 God gave my son the ability to run fast. He did not get it from me. He got it from his mom. I love watching my son run. I think Jesus does, too. 

Yet, to watch my son run I have to also watch hundreds–and hundreds–of other kids run. The meet I attended had 27 heats in the 100-meter dash. You read that right–twenty-seven! And the kicker, at the meet I was attending, my son had not been chosen to race in the 100. 

I sat there for almost five hours before he even ran. By myself. My wife had to run our other kids around. Lucky, I thought. I was stuck in the bleachers, umbrella and book in hand, occasionally looking up to watch other kids run. 

My son finally ran. He ran well. I then waited for another three hours until his next race. In summary, I sat for ten hours to watch my son run for a total of less than two minutes. Ten hours for two minutes. Toward the end of the meet I was thinking, He could have just run in the park for two minutes, and then we could have played golf–36 holes even

Why am I telling you this? I need to vent. Thanks for being a part of my therapy session. 

Also, life and leadership is a lot like a track meet for these three quick reasons. 

  1. Patience is necessary.

The Lord is teaching me patience. He wants to teach our entire culture and church. Wait for the Lord. Wait for each other. Wait on the Lord to grow His Church. Stay present. Stay expectant. 

  1. Life is suffering.

I was amazed at the kids that ran the 1600-meter (roughly a mile). That is one miserable race. The 800-meter is possibly worse. It is almost a dead sprint for a half mile. Ugh. Yet, the kids stood and waited for misery. Waited their turn to take a position in the “lane of suffering.”

Life and leadership inevitably places you in the “lane of suffering.” The loss of a loved one. Ministry not going as you hoped. A relationship crumbling. Disappointment and despair seem to be around every corner. 

So what do you do? Prepare! Train! Be in the Word. Establish deep friendships. Train your body so your mind can wait patiently on the Lord through the suffering. 

  1. Do not give up!

Some kids are not as fast as other kids. That’s life. Yet, I loved the “track culture” I witnessed, hoots and hollers for kids lagging behind, but not giving up. Clapping. Cheering. Shouts of “Let’s go! Do not give up!” 

Maybe this is how you feel. Behind on the “track of life.” Keep your head up. Do not look to the right or to the left. Do not judge yourself based on what you’re not and others are. This leads to misery. Keep looking forward. You’ve come a long way. Do. Not. Give. Up.  “Winners” may get the applause for a moment. You’ve already “won” in Christ. Keep your eyes fixed on Him! Kingdom-oriented gritty-grinders inspire others to step into the uncomfortable. 

Track athletes run for prizes that will fade. My son will not always be as fast as he is today. You run through life as a leader for a prize that will last, and you’ve already received the prize by faith in Christ (I Corinthians 9:24-25).

Track meets are long. I have twelve more this spring. Pray for me. 

The ULC is here to cheer you on as you run with Jesus!


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