Running into Friendship

Family Matters— Running into Friendship

Across my last deployment several years ago, I had learned WAY more than I wanted to about running.  My assistant and office partner was a cross-country and track coach at the school where he taught back home.  Knowing how important running and fitness are to we Soldiers, he would press me every day about what running I had done, what was coming next, and along the way would share all kinds of pointers about how to do better on running times and such.

With his pushing me, I did 5k runs probably every other weekend, at least when I wasn’t doing the Army 10 Miler, the Akron Marathon shadow run on a relay team, and two half marathons, which would have included a third as well, but for my emergency return home for my dad.  It was encouraging, sometimes quite the pain (LITERALLY), but pushed me to more than I ever thought possible for myself.  Quite the parable for what a friend can do.  I realized there, though, that the myth of the “runner’s high” is a great big lie, because I certainly never found it!

So now, though running is still far from my favorite activity (but I’m still a Soldier, so I’ve got to keep going…), I’m working on my third running coach/partner role, helping to bring out the best in others, even though it can be a painful process!  That role of running coach that my SGT did for me, and that I’ve been called in to do for others, reflects in a lot of ways this month’s memory verse about friendship: “A friend loves at all times.  They are there to help when trouble comes.” (Prov. 17:17).

From a biblical perspective, a friend is not just a companion or someone who makes you feel good about yourself, but one who pushes you too, like our old Army slogan used to say, to “be all that you can be,” even when it can be painful to do so.  I’ve never seen so much encouragement and support as I had across those many 5k runs in Kuwait, with literally hundreds of encouragers, pushing each other to go a little farther, a little faster, to keep pushing even when it would be easier and feel better to stop.

Not only is this kind of friendship a wonderful gift from God, but in God’s great wisdom, God made this kind of friendship a thing that ANYONE can do, do matter what age, what talents or strengths one might have.  I love seeing even our preschoolers learning to show this kind of friendship, and am wonderfully blessed when I see it or experience it in or from our elder saints as well.

So who are you friending and encouraging in these difficult times?  And I don’t mean “friending” is the social media sense, but in the real, flesh and blood sense (respecting social distance, of course!)?  Perhaps the best thing social media has done for us, is to help us realize that “friending” is a verb, not just a noun—it doesn’t just passively, accidentally “happen” where we find ourselves in the same space with others, but a thing we can CHOOSE to do, a way that we can bless whomever we choose to bless!

And remember that the best way our Little Ones can learn about this REAL kind of friending, is to experience it and to see it in their adults and mentors.  So I guess the question is not just who are you friending and encouraging, but who are the Little Ones around you seeing you friend and encourage, so they can learn to truly friend others as well?

Keep on friending—Rev. Jim

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