Back in the day I decided to get healthy and that included finding a jogging partner. At the time, we were living just outside of an Air Force base, so there were lots of families there who had spouses with time on their hands. I found a friend whose hubby was home in the morning and worked a later shift on the base at his appointed post. That meant she and I could hit the paths early in the morning before it got too hot in order to do our runs. The running did not last long, though, as my friend's husband was reassigned to another base not long after we started our endeavor. One of the things I found interesting about running with her was that she jogged and I ran. There is a difference, you know. Jogging is kind of at a more leisurely pace - running has longer strides and a very determined pace. As a result, I was frequently out ahead of my friend, just running at speeds she could not match. That meant I had to slow down a little at times, and even stop and run in place at others. Our 'paces' weren't matched, even though our intentions were. There are just times when our pace doesn't keep up with our intent, or our intent doesn't keep up with our pace!
All these many people who have had faith in God are around us like a cloud. Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should. Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
We all run this spiritual race together, but how many times do we find ourselves out-pacing another in the race? I imagine there have been more than one or two times when either you have 'lapped' someone or have been 'lapped' yourself. Pace is important, but equally important is our intent. When both are aligned a wonderful thing happens - there is unity. We experience things together and we enjoy the precision of God's working in our lives in ways that take each of us into a greater dimension of relationship with Jesus. It is important to find a 'matched' running partner in this race. We need each other to help with both the 'intent check' and the 'pace monitoring'. While this seems like I am saying we find others that will run exactly at the same pace we are running - anywhere in between the pace of a snail to the pace of a jack-rabbit - I am not advocating for us finding a 'running partner' that runs at exactly the same pace. I am advocating that we be matched with someone who causes us to run at a slightly different pace.
If we run this spiritual race at break-neck speeds, similar to how I ran with my running partner, then it might just be we need to partner with someone who runs at a slightly more leisurely pace. Why? We miss stuff when we are running so fast! We miss the subtleties of life that God would want us to experience with a greater depth and breadth. We miss the opportunities to connect with each other in deeply personal and meaningful ways. We miss the opportunities to stop short of running into things coming at us from opposing directions! If you have ever been an 'all-out' runner, then you know how quickly you are moving and how quickly dogs, cars, and bicyclists can cut across your path without you ever being able to 'course-correct' in order to avoid a head-on collision! The one who is running at a slightly slower pace may be criticized for their choice of 'pace' in life, but trust me on this one - they see the dangers that are about to be 'collision points' in life a little easier!
I needed to learn to slow down because everything I did in life was always at 'break-neck' speed. I put my head down and just set out to get 'er done. The problem is that I missed life along the way. I have a great BFF now who doesn't 'run' with me in the physical sense of jogging each day, but we 'pace' each other. She likes to sit and talk - challenging me to put down the work at hand on occasion and just experience life with her. That may not seem like much, but when I do take the time, I am never at a loss for how much those moments matter. They are nothing short of awesome. Those we choose to run with are to challenge us right where we need to be challenged. For me, it is a running partner who will help me to slow down on occasion and just relate, take in things around me, and contemplate what life is trying to show me. For you, it could be someone who is helping you pick up the pace a little, moving you beyond just a leisurely stroll in life into a pace just a little beyond your comfort level. Whoever you run with, be cognizant of the pace you set for each other. Just sayin!