How to Belong?

I missed church yesterday to support Matt as he ran 5K.By support, I mean I went to Tim Horton’s with a friend after the run started, and we made sure we were back to cheer as Matt and Tom (her boyfriend) crossed the finish line. Not only did I cheer, but I yelled, “Beat that kid!” as Matt indeed sprinted past an eleven year old. Don’t worry; I don’t think either of them actually heard me!

Also, Matt and Tom started the run late, so Matt was way ahead of that kid time-wise anyways.

(Matt and Tom after the run)

I was surprised how inspiring it was to stand there at the finish line and watch people running in, especially people who were running in pairs. I saw a dad and daughter side-hug with huge smiles as they crossed the finish line together, and there were several pairs of adults/kids from a mentoring organization who ran together and then cheered for other pairs as they finished. The sense of community among the runners of all ages and levels was tangible, and there was pride and excitement (and sweaty, blotchy exhaustion) in the faces of everyone as they finished. I saw people cross the finish line in jeans.

I told Matt that standing at that finish line was better for my heart than church would have been.

Although church is meant to be a community of believers and a tangible expression of God’s Kingdom in the world today, sometimes we get side-tracked being too churchy. Yesterday was a beautiful reminder that community is born out of shared love, shared experience and acceptance. Not everybody wore the right clothes, and not everybody trained the same way (if at all). Nobody was preaching that I would get heart disease if I don’t become a runner, and the early finishers didn’t worry that the late finishers made them all look bad. People encouraged each other.

I wonder how fair it is to draw this comparison to the Church, whether there need to be rules to belong other than “sign up to run and then do it.” I recognize that runners can have cliques just as easily as Christians, and I’m sure that many running organizations fall prey to petty arguments and division over relatively insignificant decisions. Sin is certainly not limited to the boundaries of church walls.

But this one experience got me thinking. What exactly is it that Christians sign up for? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. When people are sincere in their efforts and obedient to the Holy Spirit, these “rules” probably need a lot less enforcement than we think.

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Susan 16-06-2011, 23:31

I like the addition of the photos! Good for you Matt! I don't think I could even run 1k any more :S. I could definitely cheer at the finish line, though – especially after a stop at Timmies :)!


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