Those who travel internationally know that you can’t even count on two free pieces of luggage anymore. After 50 pounds, every pound will cost you. Those extra pounds actually cost you when you’re running a marathon as well. If you’re 10 pounds overweight, it’s just like putting a bowling ball in a backpack and hauling it for 26 miles. No thanks! Even the weight of an extra sweatshirt, especially when drenched with sweat, will slow and weigh you down.
When I ran my first marathon, I was surprised to see how many people were throwing off outer layers of clothing in the first 10 km. They were literally taking them off and throwing them away. I didn’t know that some people deliberately wore old clothing for the outer layers as their bodies warmed up and then threw them away when no longer needed.
Often marathons start early in the morning to beat the heat of the day which means that runners will need that extra layer until their bodies are warmed up. I didn’t know better, and I shivered and froze as I waited for the start gun. In any case, when I started to notice the hats and gloves and sweatshirts being tossed to the side, Hebrews 12:1 just jumped off the page, “Throw off every weight.” Of course you don’t need to run a marathon to see the logic of this, but running one helped me personally to feel the weight of it. Even my own long sleeve running shirt started to feel heavy later in the race, and I was especially glad I had decided against carrying that camera.
The comparisons are readily apparent. The writer of Hebrews knows that the race of life is demanding, and extra weight of any kind will cost us something. I know that my own Christian race often finds me carrying weight that only slows me down. Here’s the thing that stands out more to me now. In the first few miles of the long race, I don’t get as tired or tripped up or weighed down by the excess baggage. It’s not that I should allow myself to carry that sin, but somehow I’m able to keep running — but not later in the race. So many people quit later in their Christian race simply because they did not cast off the weight early on. That sinful habit, left unchecked with no one holding us accountable becomes a burden too heavy to bear, and some abandon the faith altogether. I recognize that not all weights are easily cast off, but carrying that sin into the harder part of the race, the later years of life, just won’t do.
Do whatever it takes to shed that weight. Get help! Become accountable! “Confess your sins to one another … so you may be healed” (James 5:16). If you don’t, one way or another, you’ll pay for the excess baggage.