When I was young, I would lace up shoes and run. It was freeing. It wasn’t till later, much later, when I read Eric Liddell’s story that I realized, in part, why I loved it so. There was a peace in the pursuing an end, a joy that spilled out as feet fell to the ground in a composed cadence of legs, arms, heart and lungs moving in unison.
Eric said he ran because he felt the joy of the Lord. Although, I didn’t understand it then, running connected my soul to the deeper things, the good and the glorious things, and it would ultimately teach my children more about themselves and God, as well.
Circumstances prevented me from running in school. I found it again, later, as means to get away from the chaotic busy-ness being a parent brought into my life. It was the prescription of grace for my weary soul when homeschooling and parenting and life pressed in and I needed a respite from it all.
Running filled my tank because it allowed me quiet time to pray and be alone; and when my kids got older, they started running with me. Those noisy folks, whose lives are more dear to me than my own, who drove me to run because they were all in my space, started filling my sacred time up with their presence again as we laced up shoes together and logged miles.
How ironic is it that joy came to fruition in the act that was first a sanctuary of rest and was now a gathering of unity?
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my race and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.-Acts 20:24
Running is easy for a few and hard work for the rest of us. My daughter’s first year running cross country was less than joyful for her. To be honest, I forced her to join the team with her big brother who loved to chase the horizon like me. She fell in love with her coach and the people she soon called friends, but running was a not a love she owned.
And it was hard.
But she didn’t give up.
She worked, and cried, and tried, and kept trying.
And her heart changed piece by piece.
She still doesn’t love it like her brother does or find the joy that I still feel when I am spilling the world’s baggage as I log miles…but she found her superpower because of running…and that is definitely something to love.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are also doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Being the last runner into the finish was hard on her heart that first season. However, halfway through it, a teammate who was recuperating from an injury asked for permission to run with her during the races, in order to bring encouragement to my daughter through those hard races and to pace herself as she healed.
My daughter agreed, reluctantly at first.
Each week we saw the two girls running…one, a more experienced runner, talking the newbie through the stages and two, a quiet resolve to push through. My momma heart burst, almost every time I would see her face, a mixture of defeat and relief displayed together.
When pride launches a war in our heart, the lesson we learn is that needing and accepting help is a blessing God uses to train us to also be those who help and encourage others willingly.
She persevered with this teammate counting steps alongside her. They ran only a handful of races that way together. Healing came, body and soul, as one slowed down to pour into the other. And grit took place of grumbling as purpose met determination on the course.
By the end of the season, she was no longer the last one to cross the finish line in a race and she was running right up with the teammates that were so far ahead of her.
We are called to be encouragers. To run our races together and on purpose. We are meant to slow down and pour into people… pour grace out of ourselves that we didn’t deserve and lavishly dump it into others.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.-Hebrews 10:23-24
Each athlete is encouraged to journal their journey; to write down the discoveries they make while they run by their coach. Because my daughter is a lover of words, her journal entries are book-length. But she invited me into her world by sharing them with me the other day…a lot like I invited her into my world by encouraging her to run.
Her words left me in tears when I heard them because she caught one of the single most important lessons that I could have ever wished her to know. And she learned it while running.
It reminded me of why I write to you…of why pouring out grace is so important.
She told me that her favorite part of running towards the back of the pack is being able encourage the people who are running with her. It doesn’t matter that they are not on her team because they are all running the same race and pushing one another on. And the goal is to finish well.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for the edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.- Ephesians 4:29
Last Saturday was a big meet; and she had a big goal.
As she came to the 3rd mile, with a hill and 100 meters to run, she was running on desire alone. Though she was not running last in the race, she was last on her team. Her goal was to pace the teammate directly in front of her, to run together, and finish close at the end. As she came to the hill, she saw her teammate stop and she realized in the moment the weight of her next choice. The words in her journal spilled over my soul and the lesson she learned was a reminder to my own.
“I knew I could beat her if I surged forward. I knew I would pass her on that hill and I would meet my goal … and I wouldn’t be last. But just as quick as that thought came to mind I remembered how defeating that felt. The team was more important. I yelled at her…I told her to go, to keep running. She looked at me and started to run. It was the right thing to do.”
Because she was encouraged, she knew the power of being an encourager.
Encouraging others is a superpower we ought to always be willing to risk using.
Yelling at her teammate, pushing her to finish strong… it meant she would be last again, in the team standings. But being last is really being first in the upside down gospel of Christ, and always what the world declares best is the polar opposite of God’s best.
I watched them run up that hill.
I saw my daughter surge and push and sprint to the end finishing with a sub-30 5k run.
A year ago, she ran that race and was the last one to cross the line. And even though she was the last runner on her team, not the final runner in this race, she learned perhaps the most valuable lesson. Encouraging others to finish well is more than worth the risk of coming in last yourself.
How are you counting grace this week? Where have you been encouraged by others not to give up? Are you pouring that grace lavishly upon others, too?
IT’S YOUR TURN TO BE A GRACE COUNTER! SHARE YOUR GRACE MOMENT IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND THEN COUNT GRACE WITH A FRIEND WITH COMMENT ON A BLOG OR TWO.
If you are a blogger, link up here with a post about finding grace moments in your life or one of your favorite inspiring and encouraging posts from this week. Share your thoughts in the comment section telling me about the #Grace Moments you experienced this week. *(only 1 post per link please)*
Take time to visit your neighbor next to you, and if you want visit a few more friends on the journey. We all need a little encouragement and affirmation as we travel together.
If you don’t have a blog, you can connect with me via my Journeys in Grace FB page by sharing a photo or a comment. Or you can join the party by sharing your images on Instagram with #Gracemoments hashtag.
Each week I will try visit as many of your amazing posts as I can.This is a safe place to sit and dwell in grace together, friends. I can’t wait to pour a cup of friendship with you and take in the grace moments you have to share. Don’t forget to leave a comment below, I love to hear from you.
I love this story! In our competitive me-first world, your daughter has “chosen the better part”!
I so can relate to this – as the Highschooler being last on the team, as the encourager to others as I got better and as a mother who re-discovered the joy of running later. Running provides so much similarities to our christian walk/run/race.
Encouragement is so key! We all come to Christ differently and all should be encouraged to press forward finding Him! Great example! Thanks for hosting!
What a heartfelt testimony, Dawn!
I am not a runner in any way, shape or form but I love going on walks to let go of the baggage my mind and body want to hold on.