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Tell Me “NO!”

Hope ran the 5K today with her daddy! I am so proud of her. She was up and out of our apartment here at camp before my alarm ever went off, so I didn’t get to pat her on the back as she left or offer any words of encouragement.I felt awful about that, so I dragged a kitchen chair out onto the sidewalk and waited for them to run by so I could cheer for them.

I am a people watcher, so I didn’t mind the wait. It was fascinating to watch the runners. Some ran alone. Some ran in packs. Some were gung-ho, and some were reluctant, being dragged along by their pastors and youth ministers. Some picked up speed at the sight of the hill by our apartment, and some slowed considerably.Eyes huge at the monumental task before them, their mouths hanging open, they chose to walk it. That would be my choice.

I wanted to cheer for everyone, but doing so from my kitchen chair made my rear end feel bigger and my thighs flabbier, so I smiled in case they looked my way for encouragement. No one did. Apparently, no one cares what you think unless you are running the race. Understandable.

Just a few minutes before Todd and Hope ran by, a pair of staffers passed. One was a student from Ghana. Her name is Priscilla, and she picks up tarantulas without flinching.She has my respect. I couldn’t tell for sure who Priscilla’s buddy was, but she looked a little spent. Twenty yards or so from our apartment on their last pass, she slowed to a walk rather suddenly and put her hands on her hips to walk a while. It took Priscilla a split-second to notice, but when she did, she said, “No!” and grabbed the girl’s arm, forcing her to keep running.The girl chuckled and started running, but just a few steps later, stopped again.

“NO!” Priscilla barked, taking the girl’s arm lightly.

Again, the girl acquiesced and jogged another ten yards or so. She wasn’t smiling and was obviously feeling the effects of the more than two miles she’d just run. Breathing hard, her hair wrapping her face like seaweed, she stopped and walked.

“NO!”

Priscilla slowed and walked with her a few steps. I couldn’t hear her, but it looked as if she was talking to the girl all the while, coaching her, encouraging her.

Welp. It’s over, I thought.

Wrong. I don’t know what Priscilla said to the girl, but she began to run again. Priscilla’s smile was priceless, and the girl never stopped again in my range of sight.

Yea!

My heart did a little hand-stand and a peppy herkie jump, things my body cannot do. I would have cheered out loud, but I felt irrelevant. My rear was still in that kitchen chair…

I started thinking about that narrow road that some of us are currently running. As followers of Christ, we share a destination. We run the same path, the one marked out by the Father, but our journeys are as unique as we are. Some are pros by now. Having run this race for a while, they don’t get winded easily. They aren’t discouraged by the obstacles that come their way, and they don’t mind running alone if no one wants to keep up.

Others are starting to get the hang of it. They get tired sometimes, but they’ve either heard of or experienced for themselves the reward that comes with perseverance. They press on, following the example set by those just ahead of them, drawing encouragement from those who run beside them. They may stutter-step or slow a little when faced with obstacles, but they press on, knowing every hill comes down again on the other side.

Then there are the newbies, the ones just getting the hang of it. If it weren’t for those around them, they might choose to sit on the nearest rock until their rear ends grew numb (Not that Priscilla’s friend would ever do this. I happened to notice that she had some definite muscle tone going on. Not her first day as an athlete). Numbness beats the pain that comes with faithful effort, right? No, but they don’t understand that yet.

No matter where you are in your journey, no matter your present level of strength, you were once a newbie, too, relying more than a little on the experience and encouragement of others to get you through. And, chances are you’ve stutter-stepped somewhere along the way, been intimidated by an unforeseen obstacle, and/or gotten a cramp in your side right after a second-wind.Maybe that’s where you are today.

When that happens, who tells you “NO!” and takes your arm? Who makes you keep on running?

This race is not a competition, friends. It’s important that we all finish strong, but it’s equally important that we cheer—spur, when necessary—each other on. If we don’t, no one else will.

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