Yesterday, I was finally getting to run with a running group I have been part of now for a couple of years. We are a group of 20, 30, 40 and dare I say, 50 somethings who get together every Saturday morning and run anywhere from 1 to 8 miles. This group has been great for encouragement and accountability. Because of these lovely people, I ran my first half marathon last fall. But I've slacked off on running due to schedules, illnesses, injury and travel. It was time to get back at it yesterday. I got into the running app on my phone to change some of my settings and was shocked yesterday to see that my weight this time last year was 15 pounds lighter - EEK!
Totally deflated and discouraged, I tied my shoes and met the group. Just two of the guys this joined me this weekend - many folks are on vacation. I started off our stretching time warning them about how slow I was and I would need to walk and oh, the terrible blister on my foot from my new shoes was causing me problems and I'm not really sure how well I'd do. We headed off down the trail and they hung with me for a while, or maybe I hung onto them...they were running a little faster than I normally do but I plodded along mile one with them. Along the way I complained about my setback with running, how it was a lot easier to run 15 pounds lighter and why did I have to start over...again? They commiserated with me, identified with me and encouraged me that in just a few more runs I'd be feeling better.
I didn't want to hold them back so I told them to go on ahead. Truthfully, I needed a walk break and felt ashamed to drag them down. So they went on ahead and I took a walk break. I started thinking about setbacks and how tough they are no matter what sort of setback it is. For me it was weight and fitness, for some it's addiction or a sin problem and others it's emotional. One day, you're over the hump of whatever faced you and the next day you find it hard to get through a task without thinking about the hurt someone caused you. And you say to yourself, "Didn't I get over this already? What the heck?" Sort of like, "Haven't I already lost that 15lbs?" It seems cruel and unusual to have to do the work to lose it again.
After the two guys had run ahead a bit, they doubled back and joined with me again to make sure I was safe and doing okay. They ran with me a little bit longer. Encouraging me and making sure I knew I wasn't slowing them down or keeping them from their own goals that day. It was pretty selfless of them to give up their run, I imagine they had hoped for a further distance on that nice, flat path. I ran with them a bit further but told them to go on ahead now, I'd be ok.
The apostles had some setbacks in faith. On that trail yesterday, I began to think about the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24). After Jesus' death on the cross, two of them were on the road walking and talking about what had happened. I imagine the conversation involved each one telling what they knew and each one asking a lot of questions. Was that really the Son of God? How could someone choose to suffer like that for all of us? Do you really think He walked out of that tomb or did someone take Him? Along the way, the apostles were joined by Jesus who walked along with them. They didn't recognize Him and begin chatting it up with Him about the last few day's events. Jesus then began connecting the dots for them and they still didn't know who he was...until they ended their walk with a meal. When Jesus broke bread with them and then suddenly, they knew who He was! Their faith had been restored and strengthened and their awe of God solidified.
Jesus had already gone the distance. He went to the cross as was needed to save humanity and could very well have gone right up to heaven to be with His father. Honestly, that's what I would have done - these people just didn't quite get it. But in His grace, Jesus doubled back. He chose not to ascend just yet and continued His walk with the broken people. He chose to join the two apostles who couldn't get their heads wrapped around what happened, explain it to them and serve and dine with them. Oh, how their faith was strengthened by this! Their setback lifted and they left that meal and ran to tell their friends! "It's true, He's alive!"
If my friends had completely left me yesterday, I think I would have felt like a failure. But they hung with me for a bit, went on ahead and came back to check on me. I found that so Christ-like. Jesus came to the earth for a time, went on ahead to Calvary, doubled back to encourage and went on ahead again. Thankfully, He continues to love and encourage us daily through His holy spirit. Like those early followers, we doubt, question, become frustrated and fail - but Jesus never fails, He finishes the race set before Him.
I finished four slow miles which is what I started out to do. I felt so good the rest of the day and am thankful for friends and a Savior who go the distance and double back. You might have your own setback today. Maybe you put on a few pounds or you found yourself drinking again. Perhaps you stepped back into a toxic relationship or began thinking toxic thoughts. Find and a friend to come along side you, be honest and admit your struggles to them. Then ask Jesus to come alongside you, too. He is faithful to provide the love and encouragement needed to overcome any setback. When you overcome, give Him all the glory!
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.