Relaying the Message
Before the Adidas Oscillation and Nike Lunar, before the New Balance Minimus and Vibram five-fingered, before roll bars and gel heels; there were just Keds. They came in thousands of color combinations and all the cool kids wore them. Their simple four-lace design boasted of only one thing: “shock proof.” As a child just old enough to read, I stared at the insoles and those angled words repeating themselves in perfect spacing: shock proof shock proof shock proof . . .
I mulled over those words, absorbing them with child-like faith as literal. So much so that one afternoon, while playing in the sheep fields behind my father’s home, I proudly took the short-cut across the electric fence. Throwing one leg over the wires, I immediately froze, paralyzed by the electricity pulsating through my body.
I screamed. Blood-curdling screams. My father came running, scooping me up, and breaking the current that held me hostage on that fence. I cried for hours, completely shaken. My mother interrogated me later as to whatever possessed me to cross that fence. Too embarrassed to admit that my shoes made me think I was invincible, I just shrugged. It wasn’t until years later that I fully comprehended the meaning of shock proof.
Though I never again attempted to cross an electric fence in Keds, I am not sure that I can say I learned my lesson.
To this day, sliding on a pair of my favorite running shoes elicits immediate feelings of invincibility. I follow the trends and research; fawning over the claims that this shoe is the ultimate shoe. I am drawn in by the latest flare; choosing the bright orange and sparkly pink shoes that bump my running skills to super-hero status.
So you can only imagine my confidence as I joined 11 others for the Cascade Lakes Relay (a 216 mile race from Diamond Lakes to Bend, OR). We were the “Just Us League,” and we leap frogged our way across the rolling hills. I ran under the guise of ReflectDiva.
My first run was 7.5 miles straight down hill. I felt ready, standing at the transition in my goverment-issue-orange shoes and red cape. I took the hand-off, opening my stride on the pavement. A few miles in I felt a little tight, by mile five my quads cramped and pleaded for me to stop. I pressed on, electrified by determination to continue.
I finished the run with angry legs that continued to yell for the next week.
Twice more in the day, I ran. Pushing through the binding pain in a stubborn effort to not be the weakest link. Do not applaud my valiant effort, however, without hearing first the ailments of the rest of the team.
Between the twelve of us we fought plantar fasciitis, piriformis issues, stomach problems, knee pains, sciatic nerves, intense heat, brutal hills, ruthless mosquitos, extreme fatigue . . . We all had less than super moments, still we ran.
We ran, because when each of us became paralyzed by the conditions, the Just Us League swept in.
The fear of running at night was defeated by the headlights of our van. The slow pitter patter of a steep climb, quickened by a chorus of voices singing “Speed Racer.” The relentless beating of the sun lessened by a fresh bottle of Gatorade and a full body spritz of water.
When all else failed, a shout-out of “there’s no prize money” eased any pressure to perform.
And then there was this moment, when an already ailing team member jumped out of the van to run with a struggling cohort. She could have run for a short distance, just enough to encourage and move on, but she instead saw her friend through all seven miles.
I sat reminded of the saying of Jesus: whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. He spoke regarding a tradition in those days where a traveler might violently be compelled to complete a service for someone.
I have always taken it as just that; if someone asks you to do something, do it and do it well.
But notice what Jesus said: if you are compelled to go a mile for, then go two miles with.
I would argue that it is much more difficult to go with than to do for.
To travel the miles with another is to make yourself vulnerable to their struggles, their weaknesses, their route. That is the requirement of Christ: to be vulnerable to one another. To bring our strength to the weak, our companionship to the lonely, our sense of direction to the misguided. Jesus commands such vulnerability in the context not of friends, but of often violent strangers. How much more than should we do it for those who ask us in peace . . . or those who do not ask at all.
Who in your life cries out in fatigue and weakness today? Who, though usually invincible, stands paralyzed in their path today? Who needs more than a casserole today? Go WITH them; for the mile they need and a mile more. In so doing, you represent Christ. You relay the message that He is with you always, that He is your strength and exceedingly great reward.