To know God and to make Him known.

Running the Third Lap

Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

Original Post Date: February 14, 2014

.... let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.... 

 (Hebrews 12:1d-2a, KJV)

Having been raised by a track coach, my brother, my sister, and I grew up running. My sister ran all the way to the state cross-country championships, but all three of us ran in more 5K's than we can count. We would regularly go to the high school track to train and to test ourselves against the clock. One benchmark time for every runner is his "one-mile time" (i.e., how quickly he can run around the track four times). As we trained, my father would stress that running is not merely a physical activity; there is an all-important psychological side to running as well. Whether or not a runner is prepared mentally for a race is as integrally tied to victory or defeat as the physical training. One aspect of training cannot be replaced by the other. Both are necessary for victory.

As we timed our one-mile run, we discovered that the third lap was the hardest. The third lap is the most taxing on the body as the adrenaline from the first two laps is gone and the body's own lactic acid builds up in the muscles, decreasing usable oxygen. As the body begins to suffer, the mental training of the runner must step up to continue to propel the runner forward. If a runner gives up on the third lap, it rarely matters how fast he can run the final lap. Too much ground has been lost to finish well. Whether running against opponents or simply against the clock, the third lap can make or break a runner's one-mile success.

The Classical Conversations academic calendar is divided into two semesters, but an academic year is just as often divided into quarters. If we look at it that way, we have just begun our third quarter. We have just entered our third lap, and this lap is no easier in the academic year than it is on the track.

Last fall we began the year with a "bang." Everyone was excited to find out what the new year looked like. Zeal was strong. Passion was high. Packed with adrenaline, the first lap of our CC race was psychologically easy. Six to eight weeks into the academic year we entered our second lap. The great thing about the second lap of an academic mile is that Thanksgiving and Christmas occur between the second and third laps. Just about the time strength begins to wane, there is a feast. It makes the second quarter easier to endure, but the third quarter that much harder to begin. Just imagine stopping to eat between the second and third laps of a foot race.

We have just completed a long, holiday break from the regular, weekly routine. If you were shrewd, you kept some sort of study pattern going; so that the mind would not begin to atrophy over the three- to four-week break. That makes beginning the new semester easier, but it is never "easy" to jump back into the grind of daily study. If you simply closed up shop for a month, you might need to stretch a little, just to make sure you do not pull something in the frontal lobe of your brain. Either way, vacation is over. We have entered the third lap.

Now is the time when even the most diligent students begin to tire. Books are left unread. Exercises are left unfinished. Zeal is weak and passion is low. Even the strongest begin to lose heart. If we are going to finish the race set before us, we need to be mentally ready to confront the doldrums of the third lap. Whether directors, parents, or students, we need more than a plan. We need a community, and the cool thing is...we have one.

Directors: Now is the time for you to be relentless. Do not relent in checking assignments. Do not relent in drilling the basics. You must be prepared to hand out encouragement like it is going out of style, because in the third lap, it is out of style. Sometimes that is a word of encouragement; sometimes it is a Skittle or two of encouragement. You have to be doing more than weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn. You have to be ready to bring joy into these dark, third-lap times. One way you can remember the joy that is set before you is by watching webinars and participating in online forums. Once you recover your passion, you must communicate it to students during seminar days and to their parents through regular conversations. Your parents and students need direction to finish the third lap strong, and it just so happens that you are the director to give it to them.

Parents: There will be tears. There may even be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but have faith. God did not put us here to fail. Now is the time to get down in the trenches with your children. They have little strength left. You are going to need to share some of yours. You are going to need to read those books, memorize those math laws, and learn those declensions. Your children are not likely to be able to finish the third lap if you are not running it with them. If you need direction, ask a director. If you need to cry, they have a dry shoulder.

Students: This is the day to show your mettle. There is an enemy of complacency and laziness waiting around every corner. Distractions abound. The internet surf is up. Your tablet is calling for attention, but you must stand resolute. If you are current in your studies, you must not slack off. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands, and you will soon be behind. If you are behind in your studies, fear not. We do not hold to the Pirate's Code. If you have fallen behind, you will not be left behind, except by your own choosing. Call on your parents for help. Come to your seminar day with questions ready to be asked. Your Challenge director will turn a backflip if you come and ask a hundred questions. The litany of questions is what we live for.

Community: We are several members, but we are one community. If you want to be encouraged, give yourself away. Hold or attend an information meeting in your area. Nothing increases joy more than sharing it. Plan to be a part of a Windows Into Challenge event. Develop a vision for the years ahead and help others to do the same. You need people and people need you.

Most importantly, pray for one another. Trials, such as the third lap we are in, are tools God uses to develop His children’s faith, but that does not happen automatically. He wants to use our asking to help our believing. He wants to use our strengths to help our neighbors' weaknesses. He wants us to knock on His door, even if it is midnight. He wants us to knock especially when it is midnight.

You have entered the third lap of the 2014-2015 academic year. Like the runner in a foot race, you need more than physical strength. You need emotional, psychological, and spiritual strength to finish the race, but you will not find that strength by looking inward. You will find strength by seeking God. You will find strength by giving it away to those around you, and you will find strength by receiving it from those around you.

.... let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith....

(Hebrews 12:1d-2a, KJV)

CATEGORIES: Articles, Classical Christian Education, Homeschooling Life

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