For someone who doesn’t like running I sure do spend a lot of time running. Some weeks are better than others, but for the most part I’m out there hitting pavement four or five times a week. I used to hate running, but now I tolerate it. I’d say that I sometimes even miss it, but I’m not ready to make that admission to myself.
While running four miles every day is a stretch for me physically, I’ve also been trying to stretch myself in other ways while I run. I am very often crippled by my introversion. At parties I make excuses to excuse myself. Whenever I see someone in public that I know, I make every effort to avoid contact with that person. Being introverted is always going to be a part of who I am, but I also know it can be a hindrance to who God wants me to be.
God wants me to interact with people, even people I don’t know that well. How else can we expand God’s kingdom to places it isn’t if we aren’t willing to interact with those around us? This was a struggle for me when I was a pastor and it’s continued to be a struggle for me, though now I can excuse myself by saying that it isn’t part of my job description.
Even though interacting with others isn’t a part of my job description, it is a part of my calling as a follower of Christ. So as much as I don’t want to interact with others, I’ve been taking very small steps to do just that. And I’ve literally been taking those metaphorical steps while taking actual steps.
I’m not much of a runner, but when I’m out running I see other runners. People who are much faster than me and probably wonder what someone like me is doing running. For the most part, in the time I’ve spent running the hills of Yucaipa, I’ve avoided eye contact with those people. In the past, when I saw someone coming up running in the opposite direction, I would suddenly gain a great interest in my shoelaces. I would stare at the ground or look up at the sky, anything to avoid eye contact, anything to avoid acknowledging the existence of another human being.
Looking at those people in the eye while quickly passing them on the street is not going to impact their eternity. However, for me, looking them in the eye gets me in the practice of actually acknowledging other people. I’d rather ignore everyone and live my life like the only people I know are the ones I text on a regular basis. However, that’s not the case and I can’t love my neighbor as I love myself if I refuse to even acknowledge his or her existence.
So giving someone a head nod while running might be laughable to you, but to me it’s a big step. It’s a big step in acknowledging others and moving beyond my selfish introversion. I’m never going to be the most gregarious and outgoing person; that’s just not who I am. However, I can’t use that as an excuse to disobey God’s call to love others and engage with them in meaningful ways.
Giving a head nod might not be that meaningful, but hopefully it’ll start me down the road to more meaningful interactions.
What small steps have you taken to be more like Jesus?