For years I've dreamed of running in the historic Boston Marathon. It is the world's oldest annual marathon and is often viewed as the pinnacle of the sport. In order to run in the race on Patriot's Day in April, a runner must first qualify by running a time on a Boston Qualifying certified course that meets an age-graded standard. Runners often refer to this simply as a "BQ."
Last year I decided on a BQ attempt at the Columbus Marathon in Ohio. Lee Staats, a running friend of mine from Ohio, volunteered to run the race with me. He had successfully qualified for Boston on two prior occasions and was excited about my potential to do so as well.
Every marathoner knows there always comes a point in the race when you question whether you can continue. Frankly, you sometimes question why you even started during some of those race "rough" spots, but you know they're coming so a good racer prepares for those moments. Nothing is more helpful than having a buddy running beside you! But for the purpose of a BQ, the only thing that matters is how quickly you FINISH the 26.2-mile distance. It doesn't matter how fast you run portions of the race if you do not finish. The bottom line for a BQ is simply what was your finishing time — you MUST run the entire distance!
Have you noticed that the Christian life is a lot like a marathon? We all go through sections when we struggle—rough spots for which we must prepare—miles with a buddy at our side can be the difference between quitting and finishing well!
The most infamous portion of the Boston Marathon course is called "Heartbreak Hill." The "hill" only rises 80 vertical feet over a half-mile portion of the race, but the hill comes between miles 20-21 when the runners are often near exhaustion. Every year, thousands of spectators gather there to cheer on the runners.
During one race, a young man was near total exhaustion as he approached Heartbreak Hill. Halfway up the slope, an older man, in better shape, came alongside the younger man. He put his arm around him and quietly encouraged him. Together, step by step, they painstakingly made their way to the top. What an awesome picture of affirmation and comfort! The Bible reminds us that God comforts us so we will pass comfort to others. When God encourages us, He wants us to encourage others. When God forgives us, we should forgive others. When God shows us patience, we should extend patience to those who need it.
What a perfect picture of what we often do as MENTORS!
There are times when mentoring is nothing more than putting our arm around someone and helping them take the next step. Mentoring is a picture of the overflow of Christ in our lives. As we grow toward spiritual maturity, we respond more and more as Christ would respond in the same situation. His reaction becomes our reaction.
Find someone today who needs to be encouraged. Speak words that strengthen and comfort. Show kindness and extreme patience. Put your arm around someone and run with them during a difficult hill of life. Forgive, care, cry, laugh, be there, be real! Be, to them, what God has been to you! Help them not only to finish, but to finish strong! Be to them what Lee was to me! Boston 2020, here I come!
Steve Rice is team leader of Church Consulting and Revitalization of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.