Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Being a Good Friend - We Need Each Other!

After Carissa's Boston-qualifying marathon.
My running buddy Carissa and I are training for a marathon.  The schedule we're following requires running a half marathon race next week.  After a little research we found a race in the area, The Heartbreaker Half, that fits well in our training plan.  Our race times will be scored individually, but we were also able to register as a team in the "Friends - Girl" category which makes it more fun.  Team Not Your Own (inspired from I Corinthians 6:19-20) is ready to tackle the course.

Originally I viewed this event as another training run and a chance to make more fun memories with Carissa.  But Carissa wanted to race.  An accountant by trade, she loves crunching numbers, doing research and setting ridiculous goals.  She recently got me on the phone and presented her well-thought out plan.  "We're running fast right now.  I bet we could shave 20 seconds per mile off our training pace with race day adrenaline."  She then went on to propose a projected race pace faster than either of us has ever maintained for more than a handful of miles.

I think she's crazy and told her so.  But she pushed back, challenging me with a whole hosts of stats she'd accumulated from our training runs.  Carissa believes we can achieve anything we set our minds to and her enthusiasm is contagious.  She also knows that we both rise to a challenge and if she dangles the carrot in front of our noses, we'll chase it.  Her confident determination challenges me to rethink my goals and abilities on a regular basis.

Carissa mixes one big goal with just enough realism, adds a little enthusiasm with a swift kick in the pants and the next thing I know I find myself thinking, "Maybe...  just maybe we can do it."  I know we'll be stoked if we come anywhere close to her goal, but it's not just about what the clock says when we cross the finish line.  There is great value in chasing down a big dream with a good friend.  Encouraging each other when the other is weak, spurring each other on to push a little harder and reach a little farther, and celebrating the victories along the way.  The satisfaction for me is in the pursuit of the goal, reveling in the discipline learned along the journey, and embracing the camaraderie that friendship offers.  I can't imagine training for this race without Carissa.

As I was contemplating the beauty of friendship and our need to be in community, I read Exodus 17 and 18.  In two consecutive stories, God drives home the importance of relying on others for encouragement and support.  In the first story, Moses (the leader of the Israelites) sat on a hill overlooking a battle field.  "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses' hands grew tired ... Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset."

In the second story, Moses' father-in-law Jethro comes to visit.  He observes Moses working his tail off to serve the Israelites and getting burned out rapidly in the process.  Jethro proceeds to sit Moses down and give him a lecture.  "What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."  Moses, following the advice of Jethro, proceeds to divvy out the work load and find both relief from his burden and camaraderie in working with others toward a common goal.

What about you?  Do you have a friend who challenges you to dream big and holds you accountable to chase that dream down?  A friend who holds up your arms when you're too exhausted to do it yourself? Are you that kind of a friend to the people God has placed in your life?  Are you overburdened?  Do you need to ask for help and redistribute the weight?  Who in your life needs your help to carry their burdens?   I know I'll be mulling this things over as I run this week.  After all, I'm the other half of Team Not Your Own and I don't want to drop the ball!

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