Friday, August 23, 2013

Someone in the Middle

I laugh when people say to me, "Oh, I could never do a marathon!"  I laugh, because for much of my life, the very thought of doing anything athletic was not even on my radar.  Oh, I saw runners frequently as I drove.  But to do the same? Well, it never even crossed my mind until I was really too old to consider such a crazy idea.

I also laugh, because the actual running of the marathon is the easy part.  There are cheering crowds, volunteers handing out Gatorade to you every mile or so, and the victory music from the movie Rocky blaring at the end of the race.

The hardest part of a marathon is the middle of training for it.  Getting started with training and crossing the finish line are celebrated and decked-out with encouragement.  But it is in the lonely middle where the desire is so strong to give up entirely, no crowds to witness your defeat, actually no one there at all.  It is the lonely middle that consumes huge chunks of weekend hours on a dusty path with broken water fountains.

Last weekend marked just past the half-way point in my marathon training.  And while the schedule called for 19 miles, my legs acted like sleep-deprived teenagers, sluggish and reluctant, "Really?  Does it have to be now?"  It was hot.  The dusty path had not seen rain for more than a month.  It would have been easy to have claimed some kind of injury and found another hobby.  And available at my age, I can always pull the "You are too old for this anyway" card.

But I ran.  An hour into my run, my gracious husband spun up on his bike, offering me an unexpected bottle of cool water and a couple oatmeal cookies.  It was just the encouragement I needed to keep going.  He was on his way to watch a criterium, a bike race staged on a one mile loop of residential streets.   And so several miles further up my trail, I would see him again for a little added support, a few encouraging words, and a couple more cookies.  Just knowing he would be there a few miles hence gave me a boost of energy.

Someone around you is in the middle, ready to quit something, heavy laden and ready to lay down in the dust.  Everybody may be waiting at the finish line, but you may be the one person who can help get them through those dark and weary middle miles of their situation.  Being a blessing to someone may be the most significant work you ever do.

A friend of mine has a neighbor whose wife passed away several  months ago.  By now, the greeting cards and phone calls have ceased, no longer hearing the polite offers of  "let me know if I can do something."  But there was my friend yesterday on his doorstep with a dozen homemade cookies and a few minutes of conversation.  He will get through this tough time.  It wasn't necessary that she did that.  But it was like she brought this discouraged man a plate of hope.

The LORD GOD has given me
        the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
                           him that is weary.

                                    Isaiah 50.4

do not be weary in well-doing.

                            2 Thessalonians 3.13

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