20 years ago I was a freshman at Texas A&M University and a member of the Corps of Cadets. The Corps of Cadets is a student military organization where nearly 40% of cadets will be commissioned in the United States Armed Forces. The other 60% or so would like myself go on to live civilian lives, but many of the values, core beliefs and lessons from that experience would shape our lives forever. One lesson I have learned from that experience is that when we encounter great challenges in life we are often better together than apart.
I have never been a fan of running. I know many people who are and when they share with me their fondness of the “hobby” I begin to question their mental stability. In the Corps of Cadets, we rose early in the morning every other day, around 5:30 AM, to go on 3-mile run. In my outfit, there were about 70 of us and we would all run together. We didn’t run in a gaggle but instead, we ran in a block formation. You would think that this made the run more difficult but it actually had its advantages, especially for people like me who don’t enjoy running or found great difficulty in it.
Our block formation was set up like this. The runners at the front of the block were the leaders of our outfit. They would be responsible for the direction we would go and set the pace of the run. In the back and to the sides, we would have our best runners. These runners would sprint to intersections and prepare the way for the block to ensure our safety. They would also carry water canteens and fall back if someone was injured or worn out so that the rest of the block could continue on the run. In the middle of the block would be our less advanced runners. This might seem counterintuitive, but it is actually a genius idea. When you are in the middle of the block you are surrounded by people and while surrounded you are encouraged to keep pace and not give up. I found myself in the middle of the block for most of my time in the Corps of Cadets, but over time I did become a better runner. I would eventually find myself running along the sides, to the back, and even leading from the front.
It is my hope that our church, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, could learn from this example. We are all “running the race” (1 Cor. 9:24) of life and we shouldn’t go about it on our own. Instead, we run as a block. In our church, we have leaders that guide us in our direction and also set the pace. We have people that are experienced and have been running the race for a while, these people help us cross the intersections of life and are there to be with us when we cannot keep up anymore because of hurt or pain. The majority of us will be inside the block, but only for a while. Eventually, we will become leaders, ministers, and disciples that take on new roles as we grow as a body.
As your pastor I often find myself running in the front of the block, but as a person that struggles in life like everyone else there are times that I need to be surrounded, let others lead, and gain from the wisdom of other disciples. I encourage you to recognize that! Not just for me, but also for yourselves. If you are feeling like you are running this race alone, that you can no longer lead, or that you are in need of wisdom or encouragement that has not yet come, I encourage you to find yourself in the middle of the block.
This Sunday, March 31st, we will continue our series, “With All Your Heart” and talk about why it is so important that we come together. The beautiful story of who we truly are is told when we come together. We find ourselves when we find ourselves in community.
In God’s grip,
Pastor Chuck Church