I was the slowest runner in junior high P.E. class. With my giraffe-like legs I should’ve been able to power past at least most of the girls my age. Instead, my body tromped around the track with no speed whatsoever. The coach would yell, “You’re bringin’ up the rear again!” And all I could think was, I’m moving as fast as I can.
My athletic ability didn’t change much beyond the teen years. But as an adult I found other women who would trot along beside me, content with keeping an even pace. One friend in particular joined with me and became a welcome addition to my journey.
Our strides complemented each other’s. Sometimes distance formed between us, but just for a short time. Before long we’d call out to each other to either slow down or pick up the pace. It was much easier to keep up the consistency with someone by my side.
We enjoy this life trek more when we run it together.
We kept in perfect sync. Until one day I looked to my left and noticed she was gone. Somehow she’d made it to the finish line before me. She reached the ultimate destination, eternity with Jesus. The grief took away the joy of ever reaching the destination. I wanted to stop running.
My pace slowed and all I could see was the quick flicks of the feet in front of me. A memory came flooding back and that voice cried out once more, “You’re bringin’ up the rear again!” And all I could think was, I’m moving as fast as I can.
I used to see life as the women’s 400-meter dash individual event. That is, until I discovered the power of encouragement. Now I realize we are many women running at different paces, but all part of the same cross country team.
Some may be up ahead, and some behind. Others will stay right alongside us, swapping stories and sharing jokes to keep our minds off the pain in our shins and ankles. When one member of the team finishes the race, the other members don’t quit. They keep going.
If she crosses the finish line before me, my job is to keep running.
It’s been two years since my friend finished the race. I imagine her cheering us on as we gaze ahead unable to see all that waits for us there. So as we continue pounding our sneakers on the hot pavement today, could we swap stories and tell some jokes? Oh, and let’s all wear the same color jerseys. If I could pick, I’d choose purple.
And when we see someone losing momentum, let’s slow down a bit and jog along beside her for a while. It may be just the motivation she needs to stay in the race. Because even though our running styles may be different, we definitely have more fun running together.