Everything was going great until I got on the treadmill.
You see, I’ve been trying to get back into running after having a baby. And it’s been hard. Like, really, really hard. The kind of hard where I barely make it a mile before I’m out of breath, complaining of a side cramp.
Part of the problem is that I just didn’t see it coming. In fact, I was actually pretty excited to get back to the gym. And at first, it was great! I happily laced up my running shoes as I pulled up my favorite pandora station on my iPhone. While filling up my water bottle, I thought to myself, “I’m so ready. I’ve got this.”
And then I stepped on the treadmill. I set the speed to a conservative level and started to run. Within minutes I was winded and felt off balance, clumsy even. I lowered the treadmill speed and kept going. Why did my legs feel like concrete? I lowered the speed even more. At this point my run was starting to look a lot more like a fast walk.
My mind was racing. What happened to the endurance I’d built up just months ago? Was I really all the way back at square one? Frustration quickly set in.
And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
Because at this point in my run-turned-walk, I stole a sideways glance at my friend on the treadmill next to me. A couple miles into her long run, she was focused and fast. Was she even SWEATING?
The dialogue in my head quickly changed from frustration to embarrassment and envy. Had she seen my pathetic attempt at running? I bet she couldn’t believe how slow and out of shape I was! I quickly decided my best course of action was to go home and come back again at night when the gym would be empty. After all, it was probably going to take a while for me to feel like a runner again.
As I took off my headphones and began walking to my car, I heard someone yelling my name. I turned around to see my treadmill friend (yes, that same friend I was currently hiding from) smiling and running towards me.
And then she did something that left me speechless.
She gave me a big hug and said: “I’ve missed you at the gym! We should run together outside sometime.”
Um, whaaaaaaat? Had she really just invited me to run with her? Hadn’t she seen my slow and awkward attempt at running?
She didn’t care. She said she just wanted to hang out and didn’t care how fast we ran.
And all of the sudden my friend looked and sounded a whole lot like Jesus to me.
Because in that moment when I felt like a total and complete failure, she gave me a brand new outlook. She wanted to hangout with me even if it meant changing her own pace to go my speed. She gave me the hope that I wasn’t in this alone. I could give myself grace. I didn’t need to hide.
She gave me an amazing picture of how the church should work.
Because in our churches and communities, we’re not all going the same speed. There are times when some of us will be spiritually strong. And during these times, maybe we are called to change our pace to meet someone else where they are, sometimes giving hope and encouragement just by hanging out. There will also be seasons of life when we face loss, transitions, and doubt. During these times maybe we really just need a reminder that we aren’t in this alone, that there is hope, and that we are seen.
And maybe, like me, you will gain a new appreciation for the [sometimes slow] pace of a Christian community.
I’d love to hear your stories! Have you walked alongside someone who is facing a difficult season (maybe a job loss, illness, or faith crisis)? How were you blessed through this experience? Or, has someone met you right-where-you-were-at during a hard time? What impact did this person or community have on you?