A few months ago my sister-in-law and I dashed all around Austin with our six kids to get any glimpse we could of my brother, her husband, as he ran the Austin half marathon. We planned out our route the night before and I have to admit that she was a bit more excited about doing this than I was. I was thinking we could catch him at one point and then head straight to the finish line to watch him finish and call it a day. I went along with her excitement because it is her husband, so she gets to decide what we do.
I woke up at 5:30 to take my brother to the starting line for his race. I know awesome sister award goes to me! After the kids woke up, Kristen and I were ready to tackle the city and cheer Jordan during his race. We both had our phones out and we arrived at the first stop ready to wait for him and cheer him on. As we waited we cheered for the other runners and I began to remember what it felt like to be running and to have people cheering you on. I’ve ran four half’s in my life, and each time one of my favorite things were the random people cheering for you. Encouraging you as you struggle to continue to put one foot in front of the other.
Finally we saw Jordan’s orange shorts and we all began to cheer for him. We were all excited to see him and cheer him on. Just as soon as we saw him, he was gone. A couple of “way to go Jordan” and “keep going” and then he was gone. I looked at Kristen and told her how fun that was and that I wanted to see if we could find him again. Remember I only thought I wanted to find him once and then call it a day. I had no idea how excited it would be to cheer him on. I had thought that being on the sideline was less than, and not that big of a deal. I had thought that the only thing worthy that day were the people running, and that all of us on the sidelines were losers that couldn’t actually do the run.
Then I noticed something. I noticed moms pushing strollers as they cheered on their husbands while they ran. They too were a part of his running. They sacrificed time so that he cold train and put in the hours he needed to get ready for this race. I saw a man begin to run along side his wife and give her that push she needed to keep going. As we raced around town tracking down Jordan a total of four times I realized that the people on the sidelines matter.
Those that are running matter, and those that are cheering matter. Neither one of them can exist without the other, and neither one of them can be their best without the other.
If you are in the race or cheering those on that are running, know that you matter. What you are doing matters.
I think about this as we support friends around the world that are serving. Their race looks completely different than mine, and although I’m not in that particular race with them, I get the honor to cheer them on from the sidelines. They are running the race. I am cheering them on. They are putting themselves in danger for the sake of the gospel, and I no longer will view my part as minimal. My part matters. I’m cheering and cheering and when they are weak I’m going to run beside them, hand them fuel, and remind them of all that they can do. When they are weary because the challenge is too great we will remind them of the reason for serving.
There’s a verse in Hebrews that says, “therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,” and I can’t help but get a picture of people gathered around each other encouraging them to lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. These verses fall after God is telling us that discipline seems painful, but later it yields to the peaceful fruit of righteousness. God is showing us that when the battle, or the race, gets hard, that there is hope.
I think of Moses when he couldn’t hold up his hands anymore, and Aaron and Hur supported his hands. They stood there with him holding his hands. They were cheering him on, supporting him, encouraging him, and helping him run his race.
Jordan ran his race well, but he endured and finished because of the encouragement of those around him. I am not longer able to run, but I can cheer and encourage and motivate. You might not be called to the nations, but you can cheer, motivate, and even hold up drooping hands if you need to.
Some days you will be a runner and some days you will be a cheerleader. Both are needed and both are important.