I like to run. Actually, I like to talk about running, and I like to say I’ve been running; I even like to read blogs about running. But I’m really not that much of a hard-core runner; three to four miles is about the limit for my tennis shoes right now.
However, Kristin is a runner. A broccoli-eating-“I-just-have-so-much-energy” runner. She wanted to go on a quick jog, and even though I was exhausted from the day and was unsure of the trepidation ahead of me, I complied. As it turns out, we ran a total of 4.5 miles uphill to the Rose Garden and back—a worthy feat, but a difficult one. Every step of the way Kristin was pushing me, like my personal trainer or something. “Twenty more minutes. C’mon, let’s go!”
If Kristin hadn’t coerced asked me to go running that day, I wouldn’t have gone. I never would have had the adventure of seeing a man get pulled over by the police, being cheered for by a random running club, watching a musical rehearsal in the park, and seeing the beauty of the hundreds of roses planted in the famous Rose Garden. Without encouragement, I never would have made it up that long, treacherous mountain of a hill we call “Southwest Vista Avenue.” Kristin’s cheerleading during my fatigued struggle reminded me that I need friends to help me hike the physical and spiritual Southwest Vista Avenues of life. It is clear in Scripture that followers of Christ follow Christ communally:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Community is important. It is good that I came to an early understanding of this, because a spiritual Southwest Vista Avenue was coming soon:
“Directionally challenged” is an understatement for the way that I see the world geographically. If I were born pre-iPhone, I probably wouldn’t even be in the same country. Still, with the use of an iPhone, I managed to get myself and four other people more lost than ever before. I was determined to get to a particular park that I was sure would be teeming with people; it should have taken 30 minutes to get there. I took around two hours.
First, we were on the right track, but we missed our bus stop. I wasn’t paying attention, and well… we rode the bus until we were told we had to get off. Thus, we had to take the MAX to another bus stop. From here, we just needed to take a short bus ride back to the park. Eagerly, I jumped on the first bus I saw. It wasn’t the bus that we planned on taking, but the bus driver said he was going to Glenhaven Park.
40 minutes later, we ended up STILL 30 minutes from the park, an hour away from home, and exhausted from traveling and walking in the heat. As the giver of directions, I felt so lousy.
But my team didn’t let me continue to feel that way.
I was honestly near tears when I figured out how far away we were. I didn’t want to disappoint my team, and I felt that I had. Yet, Crystal pointed out that we used the 20 minutes at our last bus stop to talk to a homeless man named Larry. Jordan and Mike never once seemed upset—were they actually enjoying the ride? And Kristin didn’t seem to mind at all. In the midst of the chaos and my failure, my team kept me together.
We made it to the park and, disappointingly, almost no one was there. What’s more, I brought a hacky sack that I didn’t even know how to use. Dropping the miniscule bean bag and trying to kick it up in the air, I missed almost every time. None of us were really that good at “foot bag” (as we now call it), I was utterly terrible, and we all looked like idiots trying to play. Although this should have been devastating, it was hilarious; my teammates made playing “foot bag” feel like something they had been looking forward to all day long.
That’s what Biblical community looks like: people who will go deep with you, invest in you, encourage you and tell you how they saw God at work in the midst of your inadequacy. People who will truly bear your burdens and tell you to keep going (there are going to be road bumps when you try to share the gospel). People who will support you when you screw up the whole day and then all you have is a hacky sack (AKA a foot bag).
Jesus didn’t do life alone. He spent a lot of his time with 12 people with whom He did ministry. Although the disciples weren’t perfect, they were eventually used to bring thousands to Christ. I’m willing to bet that Peter and Paul and John were the type of people that would have played a crappy game of foot bag with each other.
Who are your foot bag people?