Hey there, citizen! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here.


Alright friends, here’s a funny question. When is the last time you did something that you knew other people were going to think was totally weird? Like, you knew jaws would drop and heads would turn and people would ask…

What was s/he thinking?

But you said, ‘Ta heck with what they think… I’m going for it?

And there you went, streaking across that football field, or wearing that pizza on your head like a hat?

Are you drawing a blank? A little bit? Running through the deep recesses of your mind for some distant memory from middle school?

Still nothing?

Well, here’s an observation.

We probably care about what people think a little bit more than we would like to admit.


Let’s say we were given a very important task — to make a list of the top five things that are core values for us as individuals, or core values that we want to instill in our families.

These are the things that, if your kids grow up and this is all they leave {insert your address here} with, you’ll feel like you’ve done a decent job.

If you’re a believer, you’d (hopefully) put Faith at the top of the list. Maybe Family would fall in line behind it. Perhaps Kindness or Generosity would make an appearance. Education might be something you particularly value. Hard Work, Discipline, Diligence… Financial Responsibility? You could probably spend a good wee while working on that list, and it might be easier to choose a top 20.

But, even on your top 20, would Keeping Up Appearances make your list? What about Not Being Weird? Fitting In? Going With The Flow?

I’d hope not, and I think you’d hope not, too.


Is this actually inside our hidden curriculum — something we model for our children to see, not with our words, so much as with our actions?

Let’s start with a simple example, shall we?

Your kid explodes at a pizza party. He’s totally disappointed that he has to leave early and you are totally embarrassed that your normally well-behaved almost-five year old is completely defying you, absolutely unwilling to leave the party without making a scene. He is so bummed that everyone else will have a good time for twenty more minutes, but you have another meeting with a builder or a banker or a lawyer because your Dad died, and you have to go.

By and by, you may observe that this is a truly true story, experienced by moi.

You try every trick in the book to convince this kid that it’s go time, but he is fighting you to the point that you are basically going to have to drag him out of there kicking and screaming.

You are overwhelmingly surprised because this boy just never acts like this.

Eventually, your incredibly flushed cheeks, shaky arms and legs manage to get your kid to the car. With no small amount of threatening.

Take a deep breath. Okay. This was my kid, but join me for a post mortem on this particularly painful experience. Step into my shoes and ask yourself this question.

When you get in the car, and you’re ridiculous angry with that kid, are you angry because they wouldn’t obey you, or because they embarrassed you? Dig deep friends. If you’re anything like me, the embarrassment takes the cake and eats it, too.

Obedience and respecting one’s parents falls under valuing family in my top five, but getting well and truly embarrassed in front of a big group of people is somehow projectile launched ahead in terms of why I’m angry and how I handle working my way through a discussion about what. just. happened.

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Great. Let’s move on and talk about somebody else. And it isn’t me this time.

I sat down across from a dear friend today. Very dear.

She has also spent a significant amount of time abroad and is also married to a man from our beloved continent, Mama Africa.

We were talking about how uncomfortable it is to feel different sometimes. And she told this story.

“I was at a Bible study, and one of the questions in the study was about things we couldn’t do without. One Mom was talking about her minivan, and how it has a screen for every kid and they can each watch their own movie or play their own games. [The conversation continued here with things you can imagine, answers that can’t do without the many modern conveniences of the Western World…] And it came to me, and I’d written down ‘My toothbrush and an extra pair of underwear.’ Because I remembered when [my husband and I] were working in that refugee camp for all those weeks, and I just wanted an extra pair of underwear, and I was glad I had my toothbrush.”

At the end of it all, she just felt weird. She felt different. And we had this mutual feeling — that we couldn’t say too much about our experiences around the world, like we should limit discussions of experiences outside the US to one per evening, so that it doesn’t seem like we are trying to wear a traveling badge, or just risk seeming weird and different.

Could this be true: While we might want to be ahead of the game in fashion, have the latest car to drive and the newest and cutest decorating our homes, we might long for a stand-out sense of style and simultaneously really want, to some extent, to blend in?

Are we willing to drive a second-string vehicle or live in a less aesthetically appealing home for the sake of giving more to the poor?

Are we willing to walk up to a stranger and deliver a word put on our hearts by the heart of God, at the risk of looking foolish?

Are we hungry enough for the things of God to lay aside every hindrance and the sin which so easily entangles us — one among many being the desire to look respectable, even our longing to be emulated — to lay hold of the story that God wants to author for us?

If we are walking the same way everyone is walking, it is hard to imagine we could simultaneously be on the narrow road we’re called to walk on.

Sometimes we think we’re in the Waters of Postponement, and we’re confident that we’re waiting on God, but He is waiting on something to be birthed in us.

And this could be the place where all this comes together:

Your Race is in Your Lane. You cannot wonder why this or that thing has already happened for them or them. You cannot worry what He or She or They will think if you decide to jump in and take a risk.

Teddy Roosevelt put it so eloquently:

“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled. Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and knows the great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And, who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and cruel souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Your Race is in Your Lane. But could you miss it because your eyes are on someone else’s? You feel like they got a head start, a better shake, a better circumstance to dive into? Or could your eyes be on the crowd? Do you wonder what the folks in the stands and the bleachers will say, while you’re racing? But doesn’t it differ, sometimes radically, from what you want to be said when you finish?

It’s not the critic who counts.

Ask yourself: how much do the opinions of others matter to me?

Then perhaps you will tell yourself: more than they should.

If you’re living the race authored by God uniquely for you, then it will not look like anybody else’s.

Don’t let your fear about the opinions from the grandstands hold you back from leaving it all in the pool.

Swim Your Own Race, friends.