31 July 2014

The Neverending Run

When I was in college, our residence life team was playing capture the flag before the academic year began. I spotted "Kimpy", one of our middle distance runners, in our territory and I took chase.  I kept up with him for perhaps 50 yards, much to his surprise.  Apparently, overweight throwers aren't supposed to be able to run fast.  But I've always been fast, at least over a short distance. Now in my 40s, get me out past about 15 yards, and my speed will flag quickly.  I think that's true for many of us--we can run well over short distances, but we struggle when the distances become longer. For some its 10 miles, for some its a mile.  For those like me, 100 yards is about my max. 

I think the same principle applies in relationships. Many church folk are good sprinters.  When someone needs advice, we stand in line eager to offer it. If someone needs a helping hand, we gladly pitch in. Hurting people are offered a meal or two. 

What the church often lacks are relational marathoners.  When a man continues to struggle with pornography even though we have given him twelve principles for purity and he wants continued counsel, we get tired. When a marriage is on the rocks and the spouses are hurting and broken, we don't mind expressing our sympathy, but what is it like for us to take their hand and walk with them down a long, hard road? How do relational sprinters learn to run with long term strugglers?

It seems to me that a big part of it is that we must stop sprinting. Hurting people and hurting relationships rarely "get better" after one bit of advice or a short conversation. They take time, lots of time, and investment. In their brokenness, people need to know that when things get really hard at mile 20, someone is still at their side, encouraging them along.

Practice investing in and loving broken people, even when the going gets difficult.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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