Running is not an activity I enjoy but one I must regularly participate in as my metabolism begins to slow. Tying my shoes, hooking Lucy to her leash, and slowly making my way through the neighborhood are acts of pure discipline and ones I can’t wait to be over. There can be surprising obstacles to maneuver around on these runs, too: avoiding the four Huskies on the corner, weaving around the land mines of dog poop on the sidewalk, and learning how to master the nonchalant “dust-off” after Lucy clotheslines me on a mailbox.
Patina is a fellow runner and good friend of mine and asked one day if we could start going together. My ﬁrst thought was, “Ugh, no one needs to see me sweat and struggle my way through three miles.” But I agreed. And after a few months of running together, something funny started to happen. As we talked (and sometimes cried) about the highs and lows of life, the miles became easier. As we laughed over our graceless falls on sidewalk cracks, the time seemed shorter. As we held each other accountable for our struggles and vices, we covered longer distances. Now we had two sets of eyes to watch out for mailboxes and dog poop and I’d return with many less scrapes and far cleaner shoes.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” -Hebrews 10: 24, 25
God did not design or desire for us to walk alone. He created us to be in relationship with each other. When we travel through daily life with others while loving, encouraging, and sometimes challenging, we can accomplish things together that were formerly
My big challenge with this verse is that it’s messy to have others alongside me, seeing my reality. In fact many times I’ve chosen to go at it alone instead of deal with the vulnerability of transparency. I can decide my own pace, wallow in bad habits, and quit whenever I want. But through my growing friendship with Patina, I found having a companion at my side through the miles makes me much more productive, real, humble, persevering, and encouraged. Taking risks and getting messy in friendships brings far more value and joy in the end. So instead of trying to maintain an aesthetic but distant appearance with a crisp, clean handshake…I now much prefer a sweaty, smelly hug from a great friend running the race beside me.