A Race I'd Never Win

No matter how hard I trained, my teammates didn't notice. Why was I trying to impress them anyway?
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"How ya feeling?" Ally asked as she hand ed me a card and a single pink carnation.

"A little better," I said.

"You look upset," Ally commented.

"Well, I was wondering … " I hedged. "Does anyone ever ask about me?"

"Not really," Ally stammered, then quickly added, "But I wouldn't take it personally."

I sat on the bed, completely silent as I twirled the stem of the carnation between my thumb and forefinger.

"OK," Ally said forcefully, "I'm just gonna say it! Christy, you need to let go of your need to feel accepted."

"I can't," I said flatly.

"Why not?" Ally asked.

"Because I hate feeling like the outcast, like no one thinks I'm good enough."

"I think you're good enough," Ally said. "Doesn't that count?"

"Yeah, but you're just one person. Hardly anyone else on the team acknowledges my existence!"

"Why is it so important to you that a bunch of stuck-up people like you?"

Feeling attacked, I lashed out. "Why don't you care if they like you?"

"I used to, not with this group, but when I was a freshman, there was this group of girls … " Ally's voice trailed off. "I was so-o-o-o desperate to fit in."

"You were?" I asked, surprised but relieved to know that I wasn't alone.

"Oh, yeah. My locker was next to a group of thin, beautiful seniors. Their lockers were the 'hot spot' where every popular kid congregated. Next to them, I felt like the biggest geek. No one talked to me. I spent a lot of nights crying into my pillow, feeling sorry for myself."

"Yeah, I've been there," I admitted.

"It's easy to fall into that 'me' trap. I was so wrapped up in my world—my feelings, my fears—that I'd lost track of where my priorities should lie—loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength."

"I do love God," I said emphatically.

"I know you do, but don't you sometimes lose sight of his love for you? Like right now—you're so worried about whether or not your teammates are thinking about you that you've forgotten that God never stops thinking about you. He loves you unconditionally."

"I know that," I said. "But it doesn't change the fact that I want others to love me too—or at least like me."

"I think that's normal, but you should be more concerned with pleasing God. Sometimes you have to ask God to con vince your heart of something your mind already knows. That's what I had to do."

"I guess I already knew that, but sometimes I need to be reminded," I said, leaning in for a hug.

"We all do, from time to time," Ally said as she walked over to the closet and pulled out my torn-up Nikes.

"So-o-o-o-o," she said with a smile as she dangled my shoes in front of me, "I was wondering … when you're healthy, do you want to go running together?"

"By the time I get better, the season will be over," I replied.

"I'm not talking about running for the team," Ally said. "Forget the team. I just want the two of us to run together for fun. No A team. No B team. Just you and me on the road—running, talking, and enjoying ourselves. Do you think you'll be up for that?"

For the first time in months, a feeling of excitement shot through me at the thought of going for a run.

"Definitely!" I said with a smile. "Sounds like fun."

* All names (other than the author) have been changed.

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