“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
I’ve never been a runner. In fact, I’m fairly sure I’m allergic to treadmills.
Don’t get me wrong – if there is a purpose to the running, I’m all for it: running as part of a football match or running away from lions, bears, and other dangerous animals. Heck, I’ve even run for a train from time to time.
I think the aversion to running came from cross country at school. Those freezing cold mornings, the mud, the ditches full of ice, and the sadistic PE teachers screaming at you to push harder, to run faster, to not give up.
And then there’s the wall; that metaphorical pain barrier that every runner has to push through in order to complete the race before them.
I’m pretty sure if I’d paid more attention in school I’d remember the science behind it – something about our muscles running out of certain types of energy and having to switch over to function in a different way. You don’t need to look far to hear professional endurance athletes describing their own experiences of hitting the ‘wall’ and needing to push through it.
Last week we hit the midpoint of Lent.
This week I’ve hit the wall.
For a multitude of reasons this last week has been a tough one and the generosity challenges from 40acts have been stacking up in the inbox, left undone. In truth, I might not get to all of them before this side of Easter.
This is the wall, which I suspect anyone doing the Lenten fast will hit at some point. In fact, forget just Lent, we’ll all have those moments in life when events knock us sidewards, where we feel like we’re walking – not running! – out of step with God, when it all just gets too much.
So how do we break through it? For me this week, it was Beccy.
I first met Beccy at a conference a year ago. She’s part of the leadership team of a thriving church, is a wife, a mother, and has the most cheery character. When we met last year she was excited to hear I worked at Stewardship because she too, was a fan of 40acts and had been following the acts each day.
This week, at a similar conference, I ran – ok, walked – into Beccy. Still smiling, still encouraging and still taking part in 40acts again this year – and she’s even persuaded her daughter to join in the fun, as well.
So there I was, having hit the wall, and Beccy told me a little story from the week before, as an encouragement to take back to the 40acts team.
Beccy explained that the other week she’d been out shopping and had been praying about her generosity challenges and felt moved to buy a big bunch of flowers. She told me that she didn’t know who they would be for, but she continued to pray that she would have an opportunity to share them with the right person at the right time.
After a day of praying and wondering what to do with the flowers she found a recipient – the perfect recipient. It would be wrong to share the details of how the story unfolded, but I sat, enthralled – and, I’m not ashamed to say, just a little bit emotional – as she told me how that simple gift of flowers allowed her to stand in solidarity and love with a family experiencing sudden and painful grief.
Beccy’s testimony got me through the wall.
Without knowing it, her story, that bunch of flowers, were like a well-timed water stop during a marathon. A less sadistic version of my old PE teacher, willing me on in my generous journey by sharing the joy that she has experienced in hers.
Speaking of those old teachers – why did they scream at us week in and week out? Looking back, I can see their actions differently now. They weren’t screaming for screaming’s sake – they just knew what we needed, as moody, non-compliant teenagers, to get through the wall. And they did it because they’d all run the course many times before – they knew the obstacles that lay ahead, and they’d all experienced the thrill of pushing themselves to the finish line and completing the course.
Lent. Life. This is not a solo race.
We’ll all cross the finish line eventually. Some may look like they get there quicker than others, but this is a team pursuit – we are the body of Christ.
If I’ve had a bad week this week and haven’t been as generous as I’d hoped, that’s ok. Others have been picking up the pace and being generous in the name of Jesus in my place.
And next week, or the week after, I’ll pick up the pace and push myself harder to give others the chance to rest. We run together.