I'm less than 3 weeks away from the marathon, gasp! eek! I have a lot of emotions in regards to the race, but overall I'm just excited to be able to raise some $$ for Samaritan's Purse. I've been amazed at the lessons I've been learning through running these past few weeks. Now I don't want to get over-spiritual on you and spiritualize running, but you must know that these past few weeks have been not only a physical journey but a spiritual one. This past week I hit my peak of training. 20 miles. That's right, 20 miles folks. Two months ago I couldn't walk 20 miles let alone consider running for that long! But before you think I'm bragging I have to confess to you that I almost died. It almost killed me... truth. I only wish I was exaggerating. My run was on Saturday and today is the first day since that I'm able to fully extend my left leg, ha! Seriously, it was quite possibly the best and worst thing I've done in a long while. Read on and I'll explain.
Saturday taught me something very important (aside from the fact that I am not nearly as in shape as I had hoped to be): I need community. It's not just a preference, it's a need.
I have been fortunate to have some folks (shout out to Ben and Mike) who will run a portion of my long runs with me. I'm fairly certain that had they not run a portion of the way with me I would not have been able to finish my 20 mile goal. I need to have people running alongside of me. Sometimes a good run by myself is refreshing, but if I'm going to be going for the long haul, if I'm going to be traipsing through rough terrain & horrible humidity, having a person beside me pushing me to persevere through the mundane or through the pain is much needed. Perhaps I'm just not as strong as you, but it's true. It's just the way I am and the same can be said of my Christian walk.
I attend a large church that is growing rapidly. I love my church, but I am not blind to it's downfalls. I think one of the possible pitfalls of attending any large church is that you can attend without ever becoming intimately involved. That is not how Christianity works though. That is not what the church is supposed to look or feel like. We are called to live in community with each other. The picture of the church in Acts 2 is not one that depicts strangers coming together weekly to hear a smart, yet entertaining, pastor talk at us for an hour after we hear exceptional music. Church should not be a weekly production. Rather it is a community of people who love each other deeply and are striving to live out the Gospel together.
I was reminded of this on Saturday. I would love to say that I ran the 20 miles, it was a breeze and I ran it with style. But anyone who knows me knows that (1) I'm not nearly in shape enough for 20 m. to be a breeze and (2) I'm way too quirky to have style. I had company the first 10 miles, but the last 10 were beastly. Around mile 14 I had to stop and stretch and then at mile 15ish I called my mom. I kid you not, I called my mom and was like, "Mom, talk to me. Tell me what you're doing, How's Kentucky this week? Just whatever you do, don't ask me to talk back." She entertained me for a mile or two and told me to keep going and so I did. At mile 18 I got flustered again so I talked to my friend Emily. My legs were screaming and I wanted to quit running but couldn't because I was still a good 2 miles from my car and Ben and Mike were long gone & I wasn't courageous enough to ask the random triathlon muscle man to carry me (that would've been extremely awkward, but don't think I didn't consider it). Emily told me about her weekend and we talked about men and that obviously took my mind off of things for a little while. When I had a half a mile left, I let her go. She had a wedding to get ready for so I begrudgingly ran (it was more like limped) to my car solo. I'm obviously not proud of my training efforts that day. I wish it could have been smooth sailing, but that's just it, life isn't always easy. There will be good running days and bad running days; the same can be said for life. But when those bad days come, when temptation is heavy like humidity, I need people beside me to say "I'm with you, keep going." I need that companionship of fellow believers who are running the race with me.
I talked to a friend who ran a marathon last spring. He might have just been telling me what I wanted to hear, but nonetheless his advice was comforting. He said that the race day would be different because I would be surrounded by thousands of others going through the same struggle. There would be people beside me experiencing similar difficulties. Plus, I should be encouraged because there are many who have gone before me and have finished the race well. They've survived, so will I. Yes, I'm being mildly dramatic, but you get the point.
The Christian path is narrow and not always easy, but it wasn't made to be traveled alone. If you are just attending church, please let me encourage you to read Ephesians 4. Consider entering into the community of faith rather than only observing. I promise you, you won't regret it. I'm thankful for many things in this world, but one of things that I am most grateful for is the Christian community that God has blessed me with.
I want to run well, but more importantly, I want to finish the race I've started. If I run well for 6 miles and then quit, all that work is done in vain. I want to run a consistent, self-disciplined, vigorous race, but I know that I'm not strong enough to go it alone. Thanks to those of you who run beside me in life.
Much love - Brit