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Friday, June 5, 2009

Great Cloud of Witnesses

This spring I developed a condition that someone I know recently called "adult onset athlete." I had to chuckle when she said it. It fit perfectly. You see, I've never been athletic. But the end of February I got it in my head that I was going to learn to run. Me, who hates to sweat and could never run very far without getting a stitch in my side. Me, who always came in last in elementary school races.

The local running club has a beginning running group called "Catch the Wave." For 10 weeks you meet once a week for an informational meeting and then a run. I heard about it a bit late. By the time I joined, people were running 6 minutes and walking 2 and then repeating the pattern. While I couldn't manage that, I made myself keep going.

The class culminated with the Lake Run. It's a 4.37 mile race. Having joined late and not being in the greatest shape, I was quickly left behind by the pack. But I kept going, sometimes running and sometimes walking. If you've never run 4.37 miles, it is longer than it sounds! At one point, a person on a bike whizzed by. I joked that he needed a wagon so he could give me a ride.

Races are interesting things. There were lots of people watching at the beginning. But as we headed into the loop, we only came across a few small groups of people.

While I wasn't at the very end, by the time I was going into the last half mile, I was discouraged. I was too slow to keep up with the fast people but a bit quicker than the handful of people behind me. So, I had done most of the race alone. My thoughts went something like this: "What are you doing? Are you crazy? You can't run." And my pace got slower.

About that time, I turned a corner and a crowd began to emerge. People were watching. I had been in a walking stint and then began to run again. As I ran up the hill, Marge (one of the Catch the Wave leaders) ran down to meet me. "You can do it! Just a bit farther." She ran beside me and then, with a sudden burst of energy, I sprinted to the finish line.

It has had me reflecting on the importance of that crowd. It was so much easier to stay motivated when people were there. As the author of Hebrews writes,

"Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

We are all in a race. And that race is well over 4.37 miles. Like me in the places where the crowds were sparse, it is easy to get discouraged and want to walk or even just plain stop. It's at these times that we need to realize that all those who came before us are watching and cheering. We need to focus on the finish and not on the difficulties in getting there.

We all so need to look at those around us. Will we be like Marge and run with those who are struggling? Will we say, "Just a little farther. You are doing great!" Those words of encouragement can be the difference between someone continuing to move forward and someone dropping from the race.

What is the race like for you right now?

Are you continuing to run or have you dropped out?

Who can you encourage to continue to run in the Christian life?

I have continued to run. It's harder at times not having the Catch the Wave group, so I've joined the Lake Run Club. Every Thursday they meet back out at the Lake to run the 4.37 miles. Two weeks ago, I got discouraged again at the fact that I had been so promptly left behind. People who started after me were passing me. I turned around to go back. A group on the way out asked if I had finished. I said that I was calling it in for the day. They encouraged me to get back on the path and someone opted to run my pace. So, I finished the 4.37 miles and came back again this past week. Never underestimate the encouragement you can give another.

God's Work In Progress,

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Blogger Kris said...

It really is amazing how much encouragement affects us...and it has to be just right. My husband (I love him to death) sometimes says he's encouraging me when in fact it feels like's all in the way you look at things...(he ends up explaining himself and then I understand what he's saying usually)

June 5, 2009 at 6:12 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Wonderful post, bless you.

June 5, 2009 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger Woman on a Mission said...

Wonderful post. It makes me think of Team Hoyt. I shared this with some of my fellow seminary students. Everyone was moved by your words.

June 5, 2009 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger you gotta wonder said...

What a great post! Very poignant.

June 6, 2009 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger BizzieLizzie said...

How easy it can be to give up along the way. I've told myself - that's not gonna happen, but it's so much better when you hear an encouraging move to to keep moving forward! Thanks for your post!

June 6, 2009 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Such a very inspiring post - both for the physical and spiritual aspects!

Too often we think we can go it alone. That's not the case. We need others to encourage us and help us along...and even motivate us from the slumps we get in. Sometimes, it's that little bit of "push" from others that help us endure the race, and not give up.

June 6, 2009 at 8:51 AM  

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