Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
In November of 2009, I ran my first 5K race. That’s right, I ran a race. In high school and college, I hated running. Well, not really. I would run after a ball- basketball, softball, volleyball, or any other ball, but to just “go for a run?” No way, not me.
What’s the difference, you ask? When one chases a ball, there is purpose other than running. I am running to 2nd base, or I am running to catch up with my opponent who is about to score a lay-up. To lace up my shoes and take off running left me thinking only of how far I have gone and how much further I have to go.
What is different today? I am not really sure, but maybe it’s simply because I am no longer chasing a ball. Or maybe because there is purpose. I think also, as my body gets older and the schedule gets tighter, it is hard to fit in exercise. I can run 3 miles quicker than I can walk it. I also have a dog that loves to run! She is much happier and much calmer if she gets some exercise. I have friends now that like to run, too. In fact, when I run with my friend Jennifer, we talk the entire time we are running. As a result, I usually forget how far we’ve gone or how much further we have to go. Running together makes it so much easier.
That is what community is all about, having someone on the journey with you. It sure does make it easier. I didn’t always believe this. I use to believe that community was for wimps! I used to think that all people ever do is hurt you or leave you drained. Boy, was I wrong! God showed me how much I need community and He gave me a few really close friends to help me through the hard times, to show me where I don’t look like Jesus and to move towards living more Christ-like!
Take my friends, Jennifer, Robin, Debby, and Theo for example. Each of us is very different and yet similar in many ways. We have all endured trauma at some point in life, we have all struggled to overcome the effects of that, and we all love Jesus. But, we all come with very different gifts. They call me the “Pastora.” I am the one that brings the Word and prayer into everything we do! Jennifer is a strong leader; she brings wisdom and a sense of calm to any situation. She is daring and always ready to take a risk, if necessary. Robin is the details gal. She thinks things all the way through to the end, so we know what is involved and can take a calculated risk instead of jumping in blindly. She keeps us grounded. And Debby? Debby is Mrs. Hospitality. She is the one that loves us like no one else can. And, she is the one who teaches us to love others and invite them in as well. Theo is our counselor. She has great wisdom and a wonderful way of sharing it with us.
We gather on a regular basis to talk about our families, our jobs, our relationships, and our walk with God. We share our victories and our struggles. We praise God together and pray for each other. We encourage, rebuke, support and love each other. I have never known anything like it. Community. Five women committed to doing life together. That is how God called us to live, in relationship. The Trinity for example, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a perfect relationship. God also invites us to join this perfect relationship. And when we do, we discover others who are also following hard after Jesus, seeking authentic relationship, the kind only found in Jesus. We are all a community of believers, doing life together, struggling well together.
It is similar to running, we are all on a journey, a journey toward Christ-likeness. The question is, how are we going to get there? We have a choice to run alone. Or, we can run with a partner or group. God can use each of those, but His best, is when we do it in community. My friends are here to help me be holy. I am to help them be holy as well. If I am running on my own, it is too easy to quit, too easy to slow down, or take a wrong turn. But when I am running with others, they challenge me, I challenge them and together we enjoy the journey together.
Now, do not misunderstand. My friends cannot run my race for me. God has a race marked out for me. That is the race I have to run. This weekend, I’m hitting another mile-marker. For the past six weeks, I have been training to run my first half marathon. Jennifer, my friend and running partner, has no desire to do this. Therefore, I have been doing the long runs by myself. Yet, I am not alone. She is encouraging me, supporting me, advising me, praying for me and loving me every step of the way. On race day, she will be there cheering me on, supporting and encouraging. So while I am running by myself, I am not running alone. That is how life is, too. God has a path, or a race if you will, for each of us. We must walk in His footsteps, not the footsteps of others. Yet, we are to enjoy the relationships of those walking, or running, right alongside us.
I encourage you to run the race with endurance set before you, looking to Jesus! Run worthy of the calling of the Lord!
<>< In His Grip