A friend and I were having a conversation this morning that spurred some thoughts I wanted to share with you all:
Athletes are often encouraged to train with others who are faster, stronger, better at their "race" than they are in order to push themselves for greatness. And many of us have been encouraged to copy this style in life to push ourselves to our greatest potential. While I see the validity of that method in the sports arena, I think in the analogy of life this same process can not be duplicated successfully. Let me see if I can explain this jumble of thoughts:
I do agree that we need to have people in our lives that are a step or two (or ten) ahead of us. We need mentors, wise counsel, those who have seen the track ahead of you and successfully (or sometimes unsuccessfully) made it around. They do indeed push you. They motivate you to go harder, go stronger, simply keep going. And their experiences help you avoid the holes in the track ahead as much as possible. It is Biblical that we have these types of people in our lives to live the abundant life that God has for us. But they shouldn't be all that we surround ourselves with. There is a need in our lives for those who are running the race at the same pace as we find ourselves, as well as those running a bit behind us.
Running this race of life can be so grueling sometimes, so exhausting. And if you're only surrounded by those who are ahead of you, stronger than you, who seem to have more success in the race than you do, you'll see yourself as a failure; unable to keep up with the only other people you see in your race. We need to run with people at our own pace as well. It's these people that understand why you're running. They appreciate the hurdles you're currently jumping over, because they're right there with you. They understand the pain in your legs because their legs ache as well. They know why the sweat and tears sometimes fall at the same time, because they're struggling to see through them as well. They know the deep desire to keep up with those ahead of you, because they feel it as well. They appreciate the place you are currently in - not just your potential but your immediate. And they're the ones who will be there to lend you a hand when you both fall in the same hole, without judging you for ending up there. Their value is immeasurable in this race.
And that brings me to the last group of people we need in our race: those just a bit behind you. These runners give you the opportunity to motivate someone else. They keep your focus off of yourself and your own race, and they remind you that this race isn't about you. They give you the change to put what you've learned into practice to help someone else succeed - proving you've really learned something. And they remind just how far you've run. They open your eyes to see how much track you've already covered that you would otherwise be blind to. If you don't have these runners in your race does your race really serve a purpose? Are you really making any progress? What is the point of running if you're not able to show someone else how to run, help someone else avoid a hurdle, teach someone else how to keep going?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's narrow-minded and crazy to think we must only surround ourselves with one type of person - those we feel comfortable with or those that motivate us or whatever. We need them all. That's why God made so many different types of people. They each serve a purpose in our race, in our lives. Don't toss them aside because they don't meet some ideal you have in your head of the race you have to run in this life. Collect them, like little kids collect baseball cards. See their beauty, their uniqueness, their value, their differences and their similarities to you. And shuffle the deck every once in a while.
Keep running, my friends. It'll be worth it in the end.