I have a crazy cousin. You probably do, too, if you dig far enough. This one is the youngest son of my first cousin, which makes him some version of a relative-once, twice, or thrice-removed. Whatever. He’s my cousin-nephew. And he is crazy.
I seriously don’t know him well. I’m much closer to some of his siblings. But he has a strange habit most folks don’t have. He likes to run. A lot. Not like couch to 5k or half marathon kind of stuff. Two days ago, he chose, CHOSE, on purpose to run 100 successive miles.
One. Hundred. Miles.
I don’t even know what they call that: a Centathon? A quadrathon? I just know it is the Ben Franklin of ‘thons. And anyone attempting it gains the definition of crazy in my book.
The cool part is the Keys 100 miler is run from Key Largo to Key West. Not a bad route as routes go. I’ve done it…on the back of my husband’s motorcycle. But this dude started at 6:30am and didn’t finish until dark thirty the next morning, 22 hours later. As the youngest of six siblings, most of his family was in attendance, which conveniently sports four registered nurses and one physical therapist. Not a bad support staff as support staffs go.
The rest of us followed via social media and cheered from several states away all the live-long day. Those of us who only run when something is chasing us participated vicariously through this young man. We were running in our minds. We were sweating. We were pulling for him, praying for him, and weeping at the finish line pictures. I can’t even explain the silly emotion of this crazy event that has absolutely nothing to do with me. But it was inspiring. His passion was catching. His achievement was worthy of celebration.
But I was moved by another aspect of this crazy cousin’s race. We watched as his siblings totally pulled their weight. An older sister, the physical therapist, kept us well posted as he marked each ten or twenty miles, and pictures revealed her efforts to stretch him out at various stages along the way. Around the 70-mile mark, crazy cousin was looking pretty ragged and his older brother, stepped in with fresh legs to pace with him. I was even more impressed when this brother, who had not trained for the race, kept pace for a full twenty miles. With ten miles left, yet another brother cut in to pace the final stretch. The race was run by my crazy cousin, but when he crossed the finish line, the victory was felt by all.
A few days ago, we got word of a dear friend who has been critically injured in a car accident. Words of comfort for her husband escape me as he keeps watch at her bedside. Several other friends are barely surviving their family difficulties and wondering when the pain will end. Another young friend recently miscarried at twelve weeks just days before her graduation from graduate school. She and her husband are silently grieving when they should be celebrating.
For many of those who are suffering, words are useless.
Shoot, they are often toxic. We mean well, but end up saying the stupidest things and unwittingly wounding people. Words spoken to people in crisis are absolutely magnified. They might as well be engraved in stone. They often become emblazoned upon the hurting soul like a bad tattoo that never goes away. But maybe words aren’t the point. Perhaps we are just called to step in and pace with someone.
We have fresh legs. True, we haven’t run the past seventy miles with our friends. We haven’t trained for this race. We can’t possibly share their exhaustion, sweat, muscle cramps, or emotional pain, but we can show up. We don’t have to share the entire experience to be of some comfort. We can step in beside them. We can show them they are not alone. We can cheer them with our presence. We can let them know the community cares.
When Jesus faced his greatest struggle in the garden, he knew Peter, James, and John were helpless to truly understand his situation. But he asked them anyway to come and pray awhile. Just one hour, dude. You guys can take shifts. Keep watch. Be present. And awake, that is always a plus.
Someone asked what it meant to “pace” with my crazy cousin.
His sister replied, “He’s running beside him or in front of him and keeping track of their pace so (Crazy Cousin) doesn’t have think about it and he can be safer.”
Interesting. When we step in to pace with someone, we stay in front or beside and keep a watch out. We absorb essential needs and relieve the hurting person from some form of typical self-care. We let them relax from the mundane so that they can focus their limited energy on the grueling race they are currently running. Whether it is grief or pain or survival, the body of believers can help shoulder the load by caring for the routine tasks of living.
One of my other relatives, also watching this crazy cousin from afar, asked a rather blunt but pertinent question: “And what is the purpose of this?” The motive for long distance running escaped her. I admit, it escapes me as well, but I still admire his crazy.
Sometimes, we see people going through unbelievable hardship for no apparent reason. In the midst of trials, it is easy to ask, “What is the purpose of this?” And there is no good answer. In fact, we can wear ourselves out seeking that answer. We may never get an explanation for why stuff happens on this side of glory. But we can stand with our hurting friends and keep them on their feet. They can lean on us.
The weight of not understanding why is lighter when shouldered by community.
Who do you know who is struggling? What would it mean for you to step in and pace awhile? The race will be run by them, but the victory will resonate among everyone who kept the pace. Celebration is to be shared.
#runsohard #Keys100 #99problemsbuttheraceaintone