lesson: better together

It was the first marathon I had ever run and it was a killer. The thermostat rose to 40 degrees during the course of the morning, as the runners toiled around the National Park route 120km north of Cape Town. I was stopping at every drink station and still my legs felt leaden and it was hard to pick my feet up. Why did I sign up to do this, again?

One thing the route did have in its favour was that it was mostly flat. Until right at the end, that is. I really felt like I had given everything I had in the tank by the time the distance markers read 38km. Four kilometres to go, nearly there. I was already looking forward to collapsing on the ground with a cold coke when I noticed the gradient rising beneath my feet. A hill? Whose bright idea was it to finish a marathon in 40 degree heat with a hill?!

It was hard to keep my feet moving. I had almost slowed to a walk when suddenly I felt a hand on my back. Some guy - a guy with far too much bounce left in his legs and who, for some reason I couldn’t understand, was still smiling - came alongside me and cheered me up that hill. He kept his hand on my back, he wouldn’t let me walk, he told me I could keep going and, somehow, I did. 

At the top of the hill, he vanished. Perhaps he was doing shuttle runs up and down the hill to rescue other runners at risk of giving up. Or perhaps he was angelic. Whoever he was, the pressure of his hand on my back when I felt most depleted has returned to me more than once in the years since then. 

Sometimes we need other people to help us keep going.

not a solo affair

For many years, I bought into the idea that whatever I had to do in life, I had to do it on my own. In fact, any success would be all the sweeter if I could say that I didn’t need help to get there. I’m sure this was partly being one of five kids in a busy household, and partly it’s down to my own personality that drives a bit harder than most. But a lot of it is just our culture.

Our culture trains us to value independence, to think of ourselves as solo artists.

(Side note: if your faith expression includes the singing of modern worship songs, you might have noticed just how often we sing about ‘I’ or ‘me.’ There we are, accompanied by at least a few others who are also on this journey of faith, and we rarely bring them to mind as we sing.) 

Back to my point. This life we are living is not about perfecting ourselves for our own sake. It’s not about doing stuff on our own so that we get some sort of cosmic Brownie points and don’t have to share the glory with anyone. It is absolutely about being in relationship, about needing others, about asking for help and offering ours when we can.

In the process of change, that is the work of a lifetime as we become more fully ourselves, we desperately need others. Sure, we are responsible for the choices we make, for the direction we choose, and then we need others to be a part of that process. We need encouragement, we need good examples; heck, we even need bad examples to learn from! 

held in togetherness

This week, Tim and I have been processing the loss of something we had been working towards for several months. I have been so grateful that as we have communicated this loss, so many have offered their prayers and support. Audio and written messages found their way to us through all sorts of platforms, expressing the desire to stand with us and the hope that this is not the end. There is such a delight and comfort in recognising that, when I make room for others to stand alongside me, they willingly move into that space. 

Not only that, but I celebrated a birthday this week. There is something so sweet and so strengthening about receiving birthday greetings from all over the world and knowing that, truly, our lives are entwined in an intricate web of mutual holding and compassion of others who desire to share an experience of God’s goodness. Celebrating with others is one of the most cheerful spiritual disciplines I know!


Where do you need help in your life currently? To what extent do you find it difficult to ask for the help you need? And why might that be? Who are the people in your life who are on this journey with you, and how might you make more room for them to offer their strength to you? In what ways do you feel that ‘hand on your back’ in this season? 


Father, Son and Holy Spirit - our relational God - teach us how to live relationally as members of our family and community networks. May we grow in learning how to offer our strength and receive in our places of weakness, that your Body may be built up.