I only run when I'm chased and I've never done any competitive swimming but I know one thing: you're faster when you don't have anything holding you back. Some swimmers even shave their entire bodies just to cut down on the extra friction. Runners typically wear as little clothing as possible-often just skimpy running shorts and their shoes! (Oh, yes, now I remember why I don't swim or run.)
I imagine a scantily-clad runner when I read this verse:
Hebrews 12:1-3 New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
I also picture long-lost loved ones being reunited and throwing aside their bag or jacket so they can get to each other faster. Or when a boat starts to sink and all the non-essentials are thrown overboard.
Then I think about what's holding ME back from living my best life for God--the kind where I'm unencumbered by things like bad habits, unhealthy relationships, past mistakes, the clutter of too much stuff or projects that are no longer worth my energy.
I know for me, I can so easily be tangled up in obligation and old ways of thinking. If my eyes were truly fixed on Jesus and I was focused on running MY race, the one marked out for me...there's a lot I could throw off.
All of us are held back in different ways. I know I get distracted by over thinking and busyness. Procrastination prevents me from getting started and perfectionism keeps me from finishing but I love the rest of Hebrews 12:1-3:
...For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
There is joy set before us, too. Jesus endured so much yet never grew weary or lost heart. We can remember that when we feel like we're buried and things will never improve. He is on the throne and in control so I don't have to be. I just need to keep my eyes on Him and keep running, skimpy shorts and all.