We aren’t made to walk the path alone.

Friends overlooking a valley

I began my journey toward physical fitness with a commitment to walk fifteen minutes per day. My thinking was that I could do anything for fifteen minutes. I was right. Rarely did I walk for less than twenty minutes. Almost always, I walked at least thirty.

I had, in my excitement over such a plan, decided to invite some close friends to hold me accountable. My walk needed to be done by 10 pm or they were free to give me all the grief!

At some point in my walking, I pulled a muscle. I could barely walk. But, I persevered. I can do anything for fifteen minutes.

During that time, it was all I could do to walk around the block. I had a dip in the hip but absolutely no glide in the stride. One evening, I had decided that after mowing the lawn I had had enough for the day.

I then made a fatal mistake. I told my close friends that I was counting the mowing as my walk.

In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake, huge, BIG!”

“You made a commitment to walk. Your commitment was not to mow.”

I raged.
I argued.
I walked.

Never in my life had I been actually held accountable to anything.

These friends loved me enough to hold me accountable to the commitment I had made. I really didn’t like them when they did. Yet, they held their ground and pushed me to walk. They wanted me to succeed. In that moment they wanted me to hold to my commitment more than I did.

I walked!

There is a passage in the ancient text that goes like this,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)”

This is written right after the writer lists out a number of people who had lived and died in faith. They were the “who’s who” of the Old Testament. These people persevered in their faith and made up the “great cloud of witnesses,” along with countless others.

It is interesting to me that when he writes about persevering through the race he sets the call in the context of a “great cloud of witnesses.”

The community of faith, the cloud of witnesses, were the context from which the author calls people to press on and persevere.

We are not made to be alone. It is not good for us to be alone. We need community. We need a cloud of witnesses.

In my pursuit of fitness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational) I have become keenly aware of my need for a cloud of witnesses. This cloud of witnesses I call my “crew.” These are the people that I have learned to trust with all of who I am. I have invited them into my life and given them the go ahead to hold me accountable.

When I don’t want to persevere, I reach out to these people and they encourage me to walk on.

A community of people who are truly involved in your life will eventually make you very angry because they will not let you get away with quitting. To quit, to stop walking, is the one thing that is unacceptable to them. This crew of mine reminds me of my commitments, to be sure, but more than that, they remind me of who I am and who I want to be.

My identity is not shaped in isolation. It is shaped in community. My crew reminds me of who I am and these reminders give me the hope to carry on.

The journey towards fitness necessitates a crew of people who walk with you.

Who is your crew? Will they ensure that you walk on?

*And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage that you can bring
And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can’t leave behind

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t steal it
No, they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight* – U2