Just over a year ago, I went to the doctor, and the news was not good. I wrote about this in a post called “A change in diet and exercise for me… and for the church.” (Yes, of course I had to relate my experience back to the church…) I wasn’t dying (at that moment), but I was headed toward a very unhealthy lifestyle unless I changed the way that I was eating and began exercising.
In the last year, I’ve lost about 35 lbs, and my exercise has increased to the point that I’ve been able to run in a couple of half marathons (13.1 miles) and a 12 mile trail race plus several training runs of even longer distances up to 17 miles.
As you can imagine, people who knew me (or who saw my pictures change on Facebook) recognized that I was losing weight. Also, many people who knew me also knew that I was running, either because they heard me talk about running or they saw me panting down the side of the street or around a local park.
Over the last year – especially the last 6 months or so – many people have asked me about how I lost so much weight or how I have been able to work up to running long distances (when I could barely walk a mile when I started). I’ve explained the changes in eating habits, and I’ve explained how I slowly and consistently increased the amount that I was walking and/or running.
Then, I would often hear something like this: “I wish I could run like that.”
To which, this is almost always my answer: “Do you want to run with me?”
Now, often people do not want to run with me for various reasons, but the one most often given is this: “I don’t want to slow you down.” To which I reply: “I’d rather walk or run slower with you than run faster alone.”
Over the months, I’ve seen several people begin exercising, and sometimes they actually begin by walking or running with me. I’m serious when I tell them that I’d prefer to exercise with them at a lower intensity than to exercise alone at a higher intensity. (Yes, I still need to run faster or longer, but I can do that at another time.)
Since I have more experience running than these particular people, I’m often the one helping them learn to run. However, I still find that I’m learning from them as well, especially as they grow and advance in their exercising.
Recently, I was thinking about this in the context of discipleship – that is, helping people follow Jesus. In discipleship, we’re actually asking people if they’d like to follow Jesus along with us. I haven’t always thought about discipleship like this, and, unfortunately, I thought of following Jesus as a more individualistic pursuit.
But, like I’ve learned in exercising and helping others exercise, we should be inviting people to follow Jesus along with us – and then be willing to walk with them, even if that means “walking” a little slower than we think we could do alone.
Again, when we invite people to follow Jesus with us, we may find that we doing most of the “helping” and they are doing most of the learning at first. But, more and more, we’ll find that Jesus will also use them to help us follow him.
So, do you want to run with me? Do you want to follow Jesus with me?