One of my favorite analogies in the Bible, and one that I think seems to help me the most in my spiritual life, is when St. Paul compares life to a race. He says that we must rid ourselves of every burden and sin so that we may win the race (Heb 12:1.) He also reminds us that not all runners win so that we must run to win the prize (1 Corr 9:24). I like this analogy because you can get so different ideas from it.
The spiritual life is a race and not a spontaneous event. Some believe that to win all they have to do is to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That's like saying all you have to do is to strap into the starting blocks. It's a great start--and but it's only the start! You have a long race ahead of you, buddy. Many things can change between the starting line and the finish line. Some people get bogged down by sin and don't finish. Some people quit all together. You have a long race ahead of you. Don't get too excited because you started the race. You have to endure until the end and Satan is going to do his best to try to make you lose.
There are many strokes we can use to use to get ahead. In swimming there in the butterfly, the breast stroke, the backstroke as well as others. Swimmers may be better at one stroke than the other. We have many different devotions that we can use in order to help us get closer to Christ. Some people really enjoy the rosary while others may enjoy the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some people have a devotion to one certain saint or another. It doesn't matter what you do. You don't even have to anything but realize that there are these devotions out there that can assist in helping you get closer to God.
We must stay on course. In the swimming pool there are lane dividers to help keep the swimmer in their lane and keep them from going off course. Hopefully, in our own lives we have people that serve as our lane dividers and keep us from going off course. Our family and friends are there to keep us on track and on course. Sometimes we are paddling so hard that it's hard for us to see that we are messing up and we need that friend to point out that we are doing something wrong. We need that spouse to tell us that we aren't acting correctly. We need these people in our lives to help guide us and to stop us when we are screwing up so we know when to take a step back and get back onto course.
The sacraments can boost us right up to the front. There are times in this race when we start falling behind. Sin is dragging us down. We are in the back of the pack and we are losing big time and it looks like there is no way we can possibly win. Going to reconciliation can be like a shot of nitrous oxide and just shoots us right up to the front. You will go from being loaded down with sin and sinking in the pool to free and clear and flying on top of the water. Going to mass and partaking in the Eucharist gives us the nourishment we need to keep us at the front. If you are at the back of the pack then get yourself back to the sacraments now!
We never know when the race may end. In a race, you may sign up for the 100m, 400m or even 800m race. You know how far you have to go until you reach the finish line. In life though, we don't know how far away the finish line is. I'm 39 years old. Hopefully, my finish line is at least another 40 years away. But I must always be realistic and keep in mind that today may be my last. I want to be winning the race whenever that yellow tape comes up. I can't be slacking, sucking wind and getting my butt beat. I have to be always on the top of my game and winning this thing.
The most important thing that we must remember in this race is that we can't and won't win it alone. Yes, we need the family and the friends but most importantly, we need God in our lives in order to win this race. We need prayer, the sacraments and we need Jesus along with us ever step of the way. So don't try to leave without Him.