It was a sunny day wedged between two very rainy days and a forecast for several more thunder filled days, so I decided to head to a local jogging/biking trail. I like to jog along the Mount Vernon trail. It passes through many shaded areas and offers great views of the Potomac along the way. I figured it would be a good place to try to jog a bit farther than I usually do. For me,running anything beyond 2 miles requires lots of effort physically and mentally. After a long winter and wet spring, not running on a treadmill would be a treat.
While jogging on a manicured trail on a gorgeous day is for the most part a good experience, it did not take long to encounter some of the more difficult aspects of running outside of the gym. After diligently hydrating myself prior to my run, I found I needed to stop at one of the public facilities along the trail. Let us just say it closely resembled, in odor and appearance, the elephant house at the zoo.
When running outdoors you also encounter variations to your environment…one minute it may be cool, flat and shady, the next you are climbing a hill in the sweltering sunlight. There is also the added enjoyment of spider webs. I think each of the joggers/bikers who followed me that day owe me a great debt. I single handedly took down well over 20 spider webs with my face and arms. There is nothing like the feeling of stringy spider filament adhering to your sweaty face. By the time I reached mile two I was ready to stop.
I began the reasoning as I continued to run… “at least I ran two miles”, “I can walk the other miles and it should still count”, “I can run longer next time” and my favorite, “maybe I should wait until I am in better shape”. I was ready to stop and walk the rest of the way, when my beautiful running buddy came along side me.
She swooped in like a super hero from out of the nearby woods. She was a rather large butterfly with bright yellow wings lined with bold back markings. (I refer to her as a she because, well, to be honest butterflies do not seem very masculine for some reason) I expected this fragile specimen to flit a bit around the path before moving beyond my sight. Instead, she settled into a flight pattern alongside my knees. She kept pace with me as we trounced along for almost a quarter mile. I marveled that every step I took did not frighten her away. I kept looking around for other people on the trail alternately hoping someone would come to witness it or that no one come to disturb it. Eventually, she made one last swoop before my eyes and soared out over the Potomac River.
How odd, why would that butterfly fly so close to me for so long? I was dressed in drab colors and after two humid miles; I did not even remotely smell like a flower. There was no way she mistook me for a source of nectar. I kept thinking of my beautiful running buddy and the boldness she showed to travel so close to me on my journey. That is when I realized, I had jogged much farther while so wonderfully distracted. I did not even notice another mile had passed. I scanned the trail for more butterflies, wondered if she followed other runners, and quietly laughed to myself at the thought of what it must have looked like when she flew by my side as if on a leash. Before I knew it, I was back at my car, my jogging journey finally at an end.
Tonight I am thinking of my beautiful running buddy and the power of just being there. My running buddy did not push me along, hold me up, carry my weight, or make my journey less difficult…my beautiful running buddy was just there. She did not whisper words of encouragement or say just the right thing at the right time. She was not everything I needed to accomplish my task, she was just what I needed, something besides myself on which to focus.
Sometimes we struggle to be the perfect companion for others as we journey through life. We desire to be friends with just the right words at just the right time. There are times God just calls us to be there…bravely staying close and quietly allowing others to look beyond themselves. I am thankful for the many “ beautiful running buddies” God has placed alongside me on my life’s path, those who have stayed close, shared their lives, and by their quiet presence help me go farther.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race which is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1