Another post from Philip Jackson, a colleague and friend of mine from Macedonia. Phil serves as the field leader and church planting team leader in the city of Skopje. Phil also runs marathons, and his first full marathon was the Athens Classic Marathon.
No truth of Scripture was illustrated to me more powerfully by participating in a marathon than this simple expression by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10…. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
While running my third marathon from Pella, Greece (birthplace of Alexander the Great) to Thessaloniki, I experienced what marathoners refer to as “hitting the wall”. It often happens after twenty miles, and while each runner’s experience might be different, every “wall” means pain, unbelievable fatigue, and a strong desire to quit. Not everyone has someone next to him when this happens, but I did, and the amazing “two are better than one” principle took on new meaning.
|Alexander the Great Marathon from Pella to Thessaloniki
His name is Jovica (pronounced Yovitsa). We did several long runs together in the preparation phase before making the drive to Thessaloniki with other runners from our Delta Marathon Club. We didn’t start side by side, and early on in the race, I lost track of him among the 800 other runners. But after I came up behind him at the 18K mark, we decided to stay together. Little did I know then, how helpful that was going to be for me. While it was my third marathon, it was his 13th, and he was just the partner I needed for the “wall” that was to come.
While I had hoped to beat my Athens time, my hopes of doing so were dwindling fast as I felt tired even after the first 5K. By the time Jovica and I started running together, I needed to slow my pace. In fact, it was his suggestion that I do so. After another few kilometers, he suggested that we slow the pace again. (Incidentally, he was feeling great and could have run for a personal record, but he chose to run beside me and encourage me.) By the time we hit the 35K mark, I was starting to feel a bit faint and the wall was looming large in front of me.
|Two US marathoners finish 10th and 11th in the London Olympics
It was at that point that “Coach” Jovica took over. He said to me, “At the next station, you’re going to get a leg massage, and get plenty to drink.” I did. Unfortunately, that station provided a clear view of a hill ahead of us, a bridge. However, after the quick massage to the legs and the Gatorade, Jovica said, “we are going to walk over that bridge, and at the other side, we’ll start running again.” Sure enough, by the time we made it over the bridge, energy was slowly making its way back into my body, and we started to run. As we went along I started feeling good again, great even, partly because I hadn’t quit and partly because I knew that we were getting close to completion.
Then seven kilometers later, with Thessaloniki’s beautiful White Tower and the blue Aegean Sea on our right, Jovica and I held our hands together and held them high as we crossed the finish line, tears streaming down both of our faces. I now had a new hero, a miracle worker who had helped me walk right through a wall. Two are indeed better than one!
|Phil & Lynn Jackson
Years earlier my wonderful wife and blessed life partner helped me through a different wall, a kind of wall I had never experienced before. We had been serving God for over almost 15 years, 10 of those in Macedonia, and I had lost my love for ministry, lost my desire to serve God, lost my love for life. In a word, I was depressed. I had never been depressed in my life, never thought it was possible really. I was typically the “glass is half full” type and optimistic; I just always knew things would get better. Not this time. The wall was looming large in front of me, and leaving Macedonia sounded really good, at times even “right.” By God’s grace, I kept getting up in the morning to meet with Him, kept running and exercising, kept going to work at 9:00 am, and kept coming home at 5:00 pm where Lynn would wait for me with open arms. I used to say that when I doubted God’s love during that period, Lynn’s love for me was “God’s love with skin,” reminding me that He truly did care.
She walked me over that bridge, right through that wall, and then we started running again. And, all praise to God, we’re still running, and loving life, ministry, and Jesus more than ever.
If you have a significant other, a spouse or close friend, cherish that person. Invest in the relationship.
Be a strong “two”!
“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
Two are better than one.