Before our gracious and wise God allowed me to be physically limited by a rare metabolic myopathy, I used to run...a lot. I especially loved running outside; basking in the beauty of God's creation and worshiping Him as I ran. I would often weep as I was overcome by awe and utter joy of how awesome God is.
Since I loved running, I would run in 5K's for different causes. I enjoyed the challenge and the idea that by simply running, God enabled me to help and encourage others.
There was this one race I'll never forget. A race where I got smoked by an elderly woman.
Initially, I was committed to keeping this precious woman company. She could see that I could run faster, and wanted to. So she kindly smiled at me and said, "Why don't you go on sweetie. I'll either catch up, or see you at the finish line." I didn't want to leave her alone, but I also wanted to win. So I thanked her and went on. Well, in my pride, I ran fast and hard, just like many who were running alongside me. We were all near the front. But little, by little, some (including me) began to lose some steam and slow down a bit. When I saw that I was running a couple of minutes faster than I had planned, I slowed down...way down...I began to walk, which in running language means, you've stopped.
For those of you who run, you know that walking doesn't help, it only hinders. Instead of giving a person a "second wind", walking makes you use more energy to start running again and eventually works against you. The more you stop running, the harder you make your body work and the slower and weaker your pace becomes. It's wiser to keep running, perhaps at a slower pace if necessary, than it is to completely stop running, and walk.
Towards the middle of the race, I heard a tiny little pitter patter coming from behind me. Little, steady steps, creeping up on me. When those little steps caught up with me, I looked and it was that cute, elderly woman. As she ran up to me she said, "Come on honey, we're halfway there. You can do it.", then she passed me! As I watched this precious woman pass me, I marveled at the tiny, yet steady stride she had. I was also a struck by the fact that she spoke to me without even breathing heavily. How in the world did this elderly woman who had a smaller stride than me and looked more feeble, run pass me with very little effort?
She ran with perseverance and wisdom. I did not.
Though physically, it appeared I was more qualified to run this race, this woman possessed the unseen qualities I severely lacked to finish it well.
I can no longer run physically, but I am grateful to God for the unseen and eternal lesson He taught me through this sweet woman I had the privilege of being smoked by. I learned to run this race of life, with perseverance and wisdom. A strong steady pace is better than a quick "hurrah" start, a mediocre middle and a pathetic end.
And just like in this race, running the race of faith, is run better with true and loving companions:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
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, and 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."
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Hebrews 12:1-2
How do you accurately assess those who are running this race of faith alongside you? Who are your true companions in the cause of Christ? I've learned it is not those who quickly come alongside you with great boasts of their love for Christ, nor those who obtain a lot of Bible knowledge, nor those who claim to agree with your passion to live a life completely abandoned to the Lord Jesus (Gal 1:10, 2:20).
Talk is cheap and often fake. A person's true character and passion is revealed by their level of perseverance, or lack thereof.
"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."
~1 John 3:18
I've learned my true companions are those who are carrying their crosses (Luke 9:23), steadily running with perseverance and wisdom, as we mutually exhort one another all the more, to live only for the Day that is approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25); so that none of us will be ashamed at the appearing of our Savior (1 John 2:28).