The day I determined to make myself go back to church was much like my first run after several months: After twenty minutes I was exhausted and went home. Building my spiritual endurance would seem to be fairly easy. It's not as tiring as running, but this Christian endurance challenge takes just as much , if not more, discipline and determination.
When I first started running, those twenty years ago, I had to start slow. I found out the hard way that I couldn't run at full speed if I was going to finish a mile. Sure, back then I could run 6 mph, but I couldn't run a mile in ten minutes. Not at first. I had to build up to it. I had to discipline myself to control my speed so that I could run the distance. It was important to run slow and steady so I wouldn't wear myself out.
Though I've been a Christian all my life, I'm still in training. There's all these things I can do -- teach Sunday school, sing in the choir, make dinners for families in need -- but if I haven't built up my endurance, I'll soon burn out.
Comparing myself to others is one of the hardest things to overcome. I found when I would run at the park, where there are so many other runners, I would tend to try to catch up with those ahead of me. I would see other women who seemed to be around my age, but more fit and faster than myself. I couldn't catch up with them or look anything like them.
At church I would see women, mothers like myself, who seemed to have it all together. Most of them were stay-at-home moms (which was what I would have preferred for myself and my children) and who had, I imagined, all this time to devote to prayer and Bible study, giving and serving, always more "spiritual" than I could ever be.
Even today I struggle with the comparisons, but not as much. I've learned what my limits are, what I can do and what I need to work towards and what I don't need to do at all. It's those times when I don't do the very thing I know I should that sets me back. I begin to remind myself of all the things I should have done today and didn't. I missed a run. I missed church. Whatever I should be doing I haven't done and I am a failure.
I should recognize that voice and tell it to shut up as soon as I hear it. But I don't. I sit and listen. I take the scolding. But instead of being more determined I feel defeated. Days will go on like this and, once again, depression has it's grip on me.