If you want to see an example of what makes middle school interesting, attend a cross country meet. There you will see these people who aren’t kids anymore but who aren’t quite teenagers trying to be competitive in what is essentially an individual sport without standing out or drawing any undue attention to themselves. The juxtaposition is fascinating.
I recently attended such a meet to watch my oldest son, Tyler. I love running and cross country and I am so thrilled he “chose” to participate in the sport. At every meet, I cheer at the top of my lungs and run all over the course enthusiastically cheering him on. He loves it. Well, hopefully, he will someday look back on it fondly.
Prior to the start of the races the race director walked all the runners around the clearly marked course. One lap on the track, two laps around the perimeter of the fields, then back onto the track to complete the one and a half mile race.
The girl’s race started off strong. They ran around the track and one lap of the perimeter with no problem. The lead group was starting to create a gap on the pack. But then the lead runner made a mistake. Despite the fact that a course marshall was shouting instructions, she ran back down to the track to the finish line. The girl in second place, who was also warned by the course marshall, took a few steps the right direction, but then followed the leader back to the track.
If you haven’t ever run a race before you may not understand how hard thinking can be when you’re running as hard as you can Decisions that otherwise would seem so simple take way more energy than you have. Simple things become convoluted. What is so obvious to a spectator is not as obvious to an exhausted runner.
Racer after racer hesitated at the junction, and then followed the leaders down to the track despite the efforts of the course marshall and the now involved spectators. It wasn’t until one-third of the runners had passed by before a runner stayed on the correct course, leading the way for the rest of the racers to follow.
Most of the racers who went off course hesitated, recognizing that there was something wrong before they followed the crowd. Why did they not heed the race marshall and the previously given instructions? Why did they choose to follow the person in front of them even when they suspected it wasn’t right?
I don’t pretend to be able to understand middle school girls, I didn’t even understand myself when I was one, but I do see the lesson to be learned here.
I have previously written a post about following the prophet and how we don’t do it blindly, but the importance of his role was highlighted to me again at the race.
Before we started this mortal life race against sin the course we were to run was explained to us. As we run there are course marshalls along the way to guide us. But still, in the exhaustion of the race, choices are more difficult than we expected and it is hard to know where to go. But Heavenly Father gave us something those girls didn’t have, someone reliable to follow. His prophet.
He will not be distracted or influenced by what other people are doing. He is not perfect, but he knows how to follow the course and trust the course marshals. No matter how tired we are, even if we lose our way on the course, we look to him and follow him.