For the second week in a row, I joined a group of local runners and walkers that has formed to train together for various sporting events and organized by an awesome new store in my area called Palmetto Running Company. Last week, I tried a combination of walking and running with a few women training for a race with this special combination of sports.
This week, I resorted back to my favorite – walking. I walk about 5 or 6 days a week in the extreme heat and at a rapid pace. I am more in shape than I have ever been in my life, yet compared with the pack of runners and walkers that gathers each Saturday morning I am one of the slowest. So I was entirely surprised when a group of guys ran past me after they had reached their destination and turned back in my direction.
“Good job!” they said.
Huh? I had never heard this before in a sports gathering. I also didn’t realize the words for me. I thought one of the guys was speaking to another guy, but then I couldn’t understand what the guy was praising the other one about. So I carried on with my intense walking in the intense heat.
“Good job!” the next group said in unison as the runners passed me.
Oh my, I realized. They were talking to me! But why were they telling me I was doing a good job when I was one of the slowest in the huge group that had gathered this morning?
Guess what happened? The next group passed me. “Good job!” they encouraged me.
Then, the most remarkable thing of all happened. Two more groups passed, and these runners added something to what I had now realized was the norm for an event such as this.
“Good job. You’re almost there!”
I could have cried. In fact, I am crying now as I right this. See, this sporting event is exactly like my life. In the grand scheme of things, I am one of the slowest. I am also – aside from my relationship with God – more alone than I have ever felt in my life.
Today, I was one of the slowest. Today, despite every try I made to walk next to a fellow walker, it never worked. Everyone had their own pace. Their pace was not mine. I ended up walking a very fast pace for six miles in extremely hot weather. But aside from God, I walked alone. By the time I finished the six miles, most people had already returned and left to carry on with their weekends.
Not me. I finished the course just like I seem to be living my life right now – alone with God, wondering where everyone else has gone. I have been in so much emotional pain that I can barely describe it to people – and, for the most part, I do not.
So imagine when perfect strangers took the time as they ran through their course to encourage me, to say the exact words I so long to hear. I can only imagine what it would feel like to hear God say these exact words. And, maybe He is.
“Good job. You’re almost there!”
The funny thing is, I wonder how often those of us who believe in Jesus Christ speak these words to one another, or even to ourselves.
I cannot describe the good feeling I had as the world passed me by today to be told that despite that I couldn’t keep up with the pack – I still mattered. People still cared. God still loves me. And, somehow, by His grace alone, I will make it to the end of the race.
I am sad to say that we live in a world that has become so fast-paced that even those of us who are called in our faith walk to encourage others sometimes forget, or neglect, to take the time to do just that. But do you realize the 15 seconds it took each person today to encourage me touched my heart in a way I will never forget?
I have something to say to you, dear reader.
Great job. You’re almost there. Keep pressing into the Lord, keep following Him, don’t give up.