Last Place in the Human Race

Nichole Woo

I’m too slow for my life.

I reached this revelation recently at a stoplight, as I rolled my toothpaste-blue minivan up next to a red-hot Ferrari. It was a contrast too comical to ignore. So, I rolled down the window:

“Wanna race?” I teased, from my towering, 16-cup holder perch. The driver smirked and revved his engine. He left me in the dust, but not without a new metaphor to ponder.

Like it or not, we’re all part of this human race.

Within moments of a “positive” on a home pregnancy test (provided aim is good), we’re involuntarily and irrevocably nudged off the starting blocks. From there, benchmarks accost our lives in utero: Movements are measured, heartbeats counted, and that’s all before labor (which is often too early or late).

We welcome our beloveds with a kiss and an Apgar score, with many metrics to follow. Blink and these scores evolve into ABC competency, “unofficial” Pre-K soccer goals (we count them anyway), ACT/SAT results, college acceptance letters, suitable relationships and bank account balances.

For better or worse these metrics are constant companions, pushing us through life at breakneck speeds. We pity those who straggle behind, but press on toward an ever-allusive finish line so we can win … we’re not sure exactly what. We fear that if we slow down, we’ll surely be lapped by something or someone; which means, we all just keep going in circles.

Years of pounding this course have frayed the fabric of my soul. I’m always winded and perpetually losing pace. It’s no wonder:

I’m the minivan, not the Ferrari.

Why am I pushing so hard to check the next box, when it’s always followed by another? Are these metrics, escorting every lap of life, a proper plum line? I must finish the race; but who says I should break the tape at world record pace?

Perhaps there is time to roll down the window, and just pause.

When I pause, I see things both heartbreaking and beautiful. I see glimpses of humanity as the dust clears: Some sprint by while others limp; a few can only crawl. There are others slowing too – Samaritans quietly crossing over to help some who stumble, and others stranded on the ground. They’ve tossed conventional measuring sticks, falling behind to usher others ahead.

I see a mother put down her phone, to look up at her child. I hear the single mom’s “yes” to the caseworker asking her to welcome a second child. I glimpse the teacher, lingering long enough after the bell to gift his struggling student with a kind word. I catch the customer, pausing just long enough to meet the cashier’s eyes and smile.

They pause, as He did from the beginning:

When He saw what He made was good, and again to seek the pair who ushered in its corruption. He perceived Sarah’s pain, Hagar’s rejection, and David’s unborn frame. Then with human eyes He paused, and peered beyond earthly flesh: In the crooked tax collector, the unclean cloak-toucher, and the wayward woman at the well. He paused for imperfect humanity, again and again, to usher in divine glory.

This is the paradoxical beauty of falling behind.

To decelerate in this life seems like sacrilege. Surely, we’ll be lapped – passed up, passed by, or passed over. But to pause is to shadow the God who sees (Genesis 16:13) the souls around Him and declares, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16).

I’m too slow for my life. Now, I’m thinking about driving even slower. Because whenever I wait for the dust to clear, I see that “human” matters infinitely more than winning the “race.” In the pauses I remember: It’s not about when I finish, but who finishes with me.


Nichole Woo writes at the confluence of belonging and a life that nudges her to the edges ( A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Nichole lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, where she’s often playing and writing at their edges.