Thursday, November 6, 2008

Running lesson #10

“…encourage the fainthearted, support the weak....” 1 Thess. 5:14

One of the things I like most about the race crowd is there is no pretense. Oh sure, there’s the occasional “strutter” who is better in his mind than he is on the road, but basically everyone owns up to who he is. At the water station folks do not act like they aren’t thirsty and no one is too cool to appreciate the cheering of the spectators. It is all very real. After all, if anyone understands it is your fellow runner.

And races are not always pretty. The gals don’t wear makeup and the guys don’t wear cologne (please don’t!) – this is a race after all! Sweating bodies, running noses, and various aromas reflect that the race, while often enjoyable, is sometimes a difficult proposition. Everyone struggles so no one acts as if they do not.

Life can be a struggle too, only we try to fake it in life. We put on a face like nothing is wrong and that we have it all together even when we know that we do not. Or, we need assistance and encouragement but we’re too proud to let on, so we just limp along in pain. We all struggle at times and we all crave encouragement, so why do we act like we do not, especially in the church?

Marshall Hayden wrote an article a few years ago entitled, "Would Every Non-Hurter Please Stand Up?" He pointed out that people come to church wearing their best clothes & their best smiles. Everybody looks happy, so we assume everything is okay. But he suggests that we need to look beyond the facade & realize that the pews are full of hurting people.
He wrote, "Over here is a family with an income of $550 a week and an outgo of $1,000. Over there is a family with two children who, according to their dad, are "failures." "You’re stupid. You never do anything right," he is constantly telling them. The lady over there just found a tumor that tested positive. The Smith’s little girl has a hole in her heart.
"Sam & Louise just had a nasty fight. Each is thinking of divorce. Last Monday Jim learned that he was being laid off. Sarah has tried her best to cover the bruises her drunken husband inflicted when he came home Friday night. That teen over there feels like he is on the rack, pulled in both directions. Parents & church pull one way, peers & glands pull the other.
"Then there are those of us with lesser hurts, but they don’t seem so small to us: an unresponsive spouse, a boring job, a poor grade, a friend or parent who is unresponsive ...on & on the stories go. The lonely, the dying, the discouraged, the exhausted, they’re all here."

Just like a long race, life can be tiring and messy. Without becoming chronic complainers we need to be more open with each other. Hayden suggests we should “look beyond the facade” and we should, but how much better would it be if there were no facades in the first place. If you’re running weak get strength. If you have a sin problem get help. If you are discouraged seek encouragement. We’re all in this race together so let’s drop the pretense because if anyone understands, it’s your fellow runner!

Gotta run!