Living among the bluffs and cliffs of Wisconsin’s Niagara Escarpment gifts me with gorgeous trails for running and hiking. On one particular five-kilometer run, I found myself inadvertently part of High Cliff State Park’s 50K Ultra trail run. Now, I’m no slouch when it comes to trail running, but 50 kilometers is in a league all its own, and I’m not a member.
Perhaps another would have turned back and run another time, but I take my daily run seriously, so I continued on my favorite trail knowing the Ultra runners would at some point have to part ways with me. It wasn’t until the second kilometer that I realized my trail was the final loop of the 50K. I was nearing the finish line!
I’m a full-time mom—a career that does not come with many accolades. No one cheers me for a job well done or gives me a paycheck for my hard work. So I’m not going to pretend the shouts from bystanders and fellow runners of “Good job!” and “Way to go!” did not penetrate deep into my withering soul and boost my confidence into puffed-up pride in my splendid stride. I was glowing. After all, we were magnificent!
Only the slightest trace of guilt reared its ugly head as I easily blew by my fellow runners, keeping an incredible pace for someone so near the end of a 50K. Too embarrassed to speak as I passed other runners on the left, I only gave a thumbs up as they called, “Nice run!” while eating my dust. It wasn’t until the final kilometer that I began to question what was really going on inside me. Was I this desperate for encouragement, accolades, and praise? Or was it something more? As I neared the finish, where a group of bystanders formed a hand bridge above my head to run under, I realized what it was that felt so good and that I so longed for: community.
I was part of something! We were in this race together, striving for the same goal, enduring the same hardships, looking ahead to the same finish line. We were a community—a sweaty, exhausted, endorphin-filled community. And I loved it.
We were created for community. Beginning with our triune God living in community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, community has always been. It was with this intention we were created: to commune with God and one another.
“It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18, ESV), declared the three-in-one God. So God made us a community, commanding us to hold fast to one another as we live in relationship and unity. We were made for community.
In a culture that relies on cellphones for communication, social media for affirmation, and privacy hedges for seclusion, we have lost sight of that for which we were made. We desperately need community. It is only in community that we properly grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. It is in community that we find comfort, encouragement, affirmation, accountability, strength, and rest. It is in community that we more deeply understand our triune God and draw near to God. It is in community that we find the fertile soil in which we may grow to be more like Christ. Without community, we are unprotected and vulnerable to flaming arrows. It is only in community that the church can truly grow, flourish, and endure. We need one another.
Though I was 45 kilometers short of true community on this particular hot summer day, I was nonetheless reminded of my deep need for others. In case you are wondering, I did not officially cross the finish line. I quietly veered off the trail so the true champions of the day could receive their due praise.
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