I joined the track team in junior high after being “discovered” by my sixth grade gym teacher to be the fastest girl in the grade. The track coach tried me out on the hurdles and found I was able to hurdle without losing much speed. She worked with me on timing and stride so that I could be even faster. With the 100 meter and 200 meter hurdle races, you always lead with your dominant leg. This leg is the one you most naturally lead with and is usually the stronger of your two legs.
When I got to high school, there was a new race I had to train for: the 300 meter hurdles. Due to the spacing of the hurdles, you have to learn how to alternate the leg that you lead with over the hurdles. This felt very unnatural at first but with training, mindfulness, and persistence, I was able to lead with either leg and win some of these races too.
In life’s journey, it is natural and comfortable to lead with our “earthly” leg. The Bible calls this our “flesh” or our “sin nature”. For example, it is natural to react defensively and selfishly in a given situation especially when we feel wronged or misunderstood. It is natural to try to get the best parking spot or to be the first in line; to want the most praise and attention or the biggest “piece of the pie”; to be concerned with our own comforts and desires over those of others.
When we trust in Grace Incarnate and choose to follow Him, He calls us to lead with our “heavenly” leg. The Bible calls this “living by the Spirit”. (See Romans 7 and 8). It’s not something we can do on our own, that’s for sure. It’s His Spirit that fills us and empowers us to live this way (Romans 8:11). Our coach, Jesus, has given us an example so that we can follow in His steps. For example, He went to worship on a regular basis (Luke 4:16), He knew the Scriptures well (Matthew 4:4), and He often spent time with the Father in prayer (Luke 5:16). He is also the One at the finish line cheering us on.
When we lead with our “heavenly” leg, living life by the Spirit, our balance leans us toward heaven, to heavenly priorities, and ultimately to Christ. At first this feels unnatural, awkward and difficult, but with practice we become more confident and we will find we are more centered in Him and more inclined to live this way.
C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next…they all left their mark on Earth precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
Hebrews 12:1-2: “…let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”