I am not a runner. I would not consider myself a runner. My friends would laugh if this claim was brought before them. My husband would laugh harder. I possibly would cry. I wish I loved to run, but I have yet in my 29 years of life come across that emotion when running. Maybe one day. I will however say if you ask me to run with you, and by ask, I mean beg me to run with you…I will concede.
I enjoy a challenge and I enjoy being with people I love. Even if I have to run to stay with them. In case you are in my club, those not naturally inclined to run, you may one day find yourself registered for a 7 mile race. Let me tell you about the two ways to prepare yourself. Circa junior year of college my sweet, convincing friend and I joined the “runner’s club.” This particular club consisted of, my friend and myself. We diligently trained day after day for months. Printed off a schedule. Ran. Cross-trained. Ran. Stretched. Ran. It was all sorts of things but I remember tiring, funny, and painful – especially in a town that is more hilly than anyone would hope for while training for their first race. To make matters worse the race was held in a city without hills which made the training seem that much more excessive. We stuck to our guns, trained, rocked the 7 mile race, and got a milkshake. Go us. Fast forward a year and yet again I found myself registered for a 7 mile race, this time in a city with major hills. My friend who began this whole running saga was again my running partner in a race consisting of relay teams. So with all our wisdom combined we decided we had endured the training before and ran that first race with ease, no need for training this go around – we got this and we will get a milkshake. Well, ladies [& gents?], let me tell you – this race was not pretty. We were dying laughing [more like dying while laughing] less than half-way through because of how ridiculous we had been. If I had to do it again I think you know which route I would take:
train well and never alone.
When it comes to training there will be pain along the way, from muscles that have never been worked, flat out exhaustion, disagreement as to which course to take, and yes, even a lack of heart. The pain is certain yet full of hope. The beauty of training alongside the right person, a sister, a brother, a fellow heir to the kingdom, is that the vulnerability, the accountability, the pain, the adventure, and the fun is shared. God does not leave us alone in this broken world to navigate life on our own. He has ordained each of our relationships to reveal a more accurate reflection of who He is through His created. C.S. Lewis puts it this way,
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” [The Four Loves]
I thought that no one but myself ___________.
…was broken, short-tempered, fearful of who their sin would entangle next, doubting and confused, impatient, or quick to speak and slow to listen. It does not end. The list could go on and we know it. Our sin is wide, high, deep, and long but the arms of Jesus reach past the whole divide.
This is Truth – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:37-39]
Jesus conquered sin, no matter how far we feel from His presence – the Truth is that because of His perfect love, He is with us. Our walk with the Lord sanctifies through the Holy Spirit at work in our joy-driven obedience. The discipline to train well can be cultivated most joyfully in fellowship with other believers. Think about the beauty of vulnerability, the way we see someone’s heart and are given the opportunity to rejoice with them or mourn with them. How close to the heart of God is that – that is Jesus meeting us where we are. The weight lifted as we pour out our burdens in the presence of others, bringing to light what was held captive to the dark. Imagine the sinful woman’s dripping tears, the washing of the holiest feet, and the anointing with precious oil. Jesus is present in the midst of the deep vulnerability of this humble woman. Think about the depth that comes with the accountability of a sister in Christ calling us higher, speaking Truth over us and encouraging us onward for His delight. I picture Jesus speaking with Peter after Peter denies Him three times. Over and over Jesus unrelenting asks, “Peter, do you love me?”..”Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus holding Peter accountable for his love, reminding him of the calling to follow Him. We are asked to come alongside our people, the people of God, those He has ordained in specific seasons of life to speak boldly. And in what I believe to be one of the most extraordinary pieces of our relationship with God is the abundance of life He offers. To laugh deeply with someone, to explore, to enjoy this holy, powerful, awesome creation are the sweetest of moments this side of Heaven. The remembrance of the adventure, the transformation, that takes place in each and every believer’s life is what spurs us on to glorify the Lord. We can see in others a holy change. We can reflect with others the magnitude at which the Lord has made them new. What a gift to walk alongside someone long enough to see the promises of the Lord visibly fulfilled. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” [Psalm 77:11]
May we not neglect to train our hearts, minds and souls well. Like meeting Jesus at the “well” deep. He is the unending well of life-giving satisfaction. We are to never thirst again in our abiding with Him. Abide and remain. To be disciplined in reading His word, falling before Him in prayer, singing His praises, serving the “least of these”, believing the Truth – and speaking the Truth, loving our neighbor as ourself, and the many ways we can through the working of the Spirit live according to His will and not our own.
May we not neglect to come alongside one another, to seek out the depth of fellowship with believers. Vulnerability. Accountability. Adventure. In relationship we find the heart of God, a reflection of Himself that cannot be find in another.
Lord, we thank you for the abundance of ways you reveal yourself. We thank you for the grace to train our undeserving hearts to be more like Jesus. We thank you for your people, the saints you have redeemed to bind up the brokenness here on Earth. We ask you to be near, to lead us in training well, and to fellowship intentionally. Heavenly Father we ask that you would reveal to us where we need to train in a new way to know you more fully. Humble us Lord so we meet others with open hearts and with a willingness to give. Be glorified in us Lord. We praise your holy name. Amen.