Monday, October 15, 2012

Beware of the Forest

There was another important lesson I took away from this weekend's race. It was a seemingly small thing, but as the days have gone by its implications have continued to resonate with me.

I mentioned in Saturday night's post that I walked a stretch of the second mile. It was only about 70 yards or so, after a steep hill I wasn't expecting, through the densest part of the forest trail. With neither spectators nor runners in sight, there were no eye witnesses. It felt quite safe to catch my breath for a moment without fear of 'letting anyone down.'

Therein lies the rub...

On the one hand I was grateful for a quiet place away from the crowd to slow down and recover. It isn't always possible to run at top speed--especially after unexpected challenges. The beginning of the second mile was a Sabbath of sorts, in the sanctuary of the trees, out of the glare of the spectators and my children. This isolated gravel trail offered a private place to recover and get reenergized for the duration of the race.

On the other hand I was challenged by the fact that I so valued privacy in my struggle. I don't mind telling people that I have had troubles--once they are back under control--but I am mortified at the thought of having an audience in the process. (Sometimes I think the subtitle of this blog ought to be 'one woman's struggle with pride and performance.' Oh vey!)

I wonder what it might have been like if I had been with a running partner on that stretch...would we have 'spurred one another on?' I was tempted in those woods to keep walking for a bit--afterall no one could see me. The voices I had feared crept in, first in whispers then in shouts, telling me that it was all too difficult--that if I was walking in the second mile there was no way I could finish.

It was at this point in the run that I really prayed. I needed to remember that I was NOT alone. God was there with me. I also realized that even devoid of earthly witnesses, truth is still truth. I would still know what happened back there. At the finish line when my time was reported, the truth of how hard I ran (or didn't) would be revealed.

My favorite chapter of Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years describes a late night kayaking adventure involving five hours of paddling in almost complete darkness. Miller writes of how in the first hour he was motivated by the lights from the shore fading into the distance and then again as he approached his destination he was energized by the goal being in sight. The struggle, however, were those 3-4 hours spent rowing through the dark with the objective still too far away to feel relevant. These seasons of 'crossing' are the stuff of life. It is where the rubber meets the road. In our marriages, our careers, our families, our God-placed the struggle of the dark will we persevere in the Spirit or fade away led by our flesh?  

My run through the forest was a personal reminder of why community matters and how dangerous our 'pulling away' can be if it enables us to retreat to the woods of no accountability. We need each other.

The rest and the solitude were good things, but I was reminded to consider my motive when I long to retreat--restoration in the Lord or secrecy shrouding my struggles? One can be beautiful, Biblical even...while the other often leads to trouble.

God wired our hearts to long for something bigger than ourselves and to function best in community. May we remember that it is in relationships with one another we can challenge, nurture and offer blessed companionship. There is rest in solitude and there is encouragement in the "great cloud of witnesses." We all have struggles along the way. Authentic and intimate friendships are essential to making it through. 

 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
 If either of them falls down one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV

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