Ohhhh summertime is so much fun. Especially after a long, harsh winter in Rexburg, Idaho. Our family loves getting outside to feel the warmth of the sun. Summer is our time to explore and discover new ways to recreate. And recreation can result in valuable progress and development, which include learning and perfecting skills, competing along with cheering for others, and approaching progress and victory from an eternal perspective.
Learning and Practicing
My kids love to try everything, participating in clubs and camps to try new sports and activities. This year they’ve joined a track club, learning all the events of track and field. They’ve both taken to running, especially the 100m, and jumping hurdles; often they spend hours a day practicing at home.
Though my kids are only 8 and 6 years old, they consistently and persistently work to improve their skills. I am amazed at the amount of work they passionately put into a race that lasts less than a minute. Their dedication is a nice metaphor for life—a reminder of advice from former Primary general president Joy D. Jones: “The Lord loves effort, and effort brings rewards. We keep practicing.”
Running and Cheering
As much as I enjoy watching my children practice, I also love the weekly meets.
My favorite place is on the sideline, cheering for them (or any runner who passes me). Inevitably, a moment comes when tears fill my eyes as I think about the beauty in their effort—both before and during a race. Something about a race helps me feel the Spirit.
Maybe it’s a reverence for the preparation: the time spent training, watching Olympic athletes, and learning to be good stewards of their bodies. My children are learning about prioritizing choices every day to enhance those few minutes of competition.
Or I’m moved by the grit required to see a race through. I love the look on a runner’s face when she’s digging deep to make it through another turn around the track. Sometimes I see a visible struggle to stay focused, to keep going though her body may want to quit. I feel a sweetness in seeing a passing runner respond as I am cheering for her—my words of encouragement quickening her step, renewing her courage to fight to finish.
Finishing and Rejoicing
I love to watch the finish. The elation of “done!” and the desire to do a little better next time. Our family rule this summer has been that we will not worry about winning, but focus on committing to do a little bit better next time, cheering for each other, enjoying the process.
Many have found metaphors in running a race to teach about the path we pursue in mortality. Paul expressed it this way: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
I appreciate this context to tutor my little ones in the efforts of their track club. I hope they’ll come to know for themselves what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said:
He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers [for] every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other. (The Other Prodigal, April 2002)
My hope for my children, as for all of us who are running the race against sin, is to be able to acknowledge the joy in trying, in having people cheering for us, and in looking forward to the big finish ahead of us—clasped in the arms of Jesus.