As a dancer, I learned that dancing is never enough. In order to keep your body healthy and prevent injuries, you need to allow for more conditioning than simply dancing. Exercising has never been easy for me and not because I don’t enjoy it but because I don’t enjoy doing it by myself. I’m the kind of person who needs that extra external motivation and sometimes that makes me feel a little pathetic, like I should be able to get up every morning and motivate myself to do those crunches and run that mile without the help of anyone else.
I feel bad for spending money on a gym membership when I probably could exercise just as much on my own for less expense. However, a gym provides classes, instructors and friends who keep me motivated and encouraged while I'm pushing through that extra uphill climb, when my legs are burning and my breath is stinging and I think I can't go on. If it was just me on the bicycle or the treadmill or in the dance classroom, I would stop too soon, I would give up before I met my potential. But it’s never just me. I always make sure that it’s never just me, that there’s always someone there to say, “You can do better than that. I know you can.”
I have to remind myself that even while I need that extra accountability, it’s still up to me to go out there and find people to hold me accountable. If I know that I need fellow saints to encourage me as I read my Bible every day, pray, and memorize Scripture, then I need to make sure that I surround myself with godly people who will inspire and encourage me in my walk with the Lord. If I know that I find it difficult to believe God’s promises and overcome my own guilt and temptation, then I need to make sure I’m going to worship every Lord’s Day and putting myself under the influence of the preaching of the Gospel and the encouragement of the Sacraments and the presence of the saints. Oh, by the way, these are things everyone struggles with to one degree or another. Don’t ever feel like you’re the exception because you’re not.
Our society takes a lot of pride in the self-sufficient independent individual. We value our freedom to a fault at times, to the point where we don’t think we need anything or anyone else. I find this attitude affects my own life and the way I think about myself. A lot of the time I won’t ask God for help or pray about something I’m struggling with, because I feel like I should be able to handle this by myself or I should be able to figure this out on my own. Sometimes I refuse to ask people for help for the same reason. I mean, everyone else seems to be handling things just fine on their own, why do I have to be the one who needs help?
The truth is, everyone needs help and if you don’t think you need help, you’re kidding yourself. We all wrestle with guilt. We all struggle to discipline ourselves in private prayer. We all need encouragement. We all have our sins and temptations. Why do you think God gives us the church? Why do you think He gives us pastors, elders, parents, friends, sisters and brothers? Because we don’t need those people, of course (insert sarcastic flashing lights).
The most amazing thing is she’ll come home and say thing like, “We ran seven miles today! I didn’t know running seven miles was so easy.” And she might have never known she could run so far if she hadn’t joined the running club. She might have reached five miles and said, “Okay, this is good enough.” Libby doesn’t need anyone to motivate her to run, but she does need people to motivate her to grow. We all need people to push us past our limits, to lead us down paths we never thought we could go. We need people who are bolder, stronger, wiser, smarter and more experienced than we are. No one is self-sufficient.
I actually heard this great quote from and interview with Taylor Swift (believe it or not!) where she was talking about one of her mentors. I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift or her music, but I liked what her mentor had to say. He told her, “Taylor, if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.” It’s so true of us, isn’t it? If we don’t surround ourselves by people who are ahead of us, our lives ultimately become stagnant. We won’t grow because we have nowhere to go...because we have no one to follow.
That’s why people are so important. There are so many Sunday mornings when I wake up and don’t feel like going to worship. But I still go because I know that when I don’t feel like worshiping Jesus, that’s when I need more than ever to be with people who do want to worship Jesus. We need people and because we need people so badly, we need to make sure that we are under the influence of people who can lead us and encourage us. Don't be the smartest person in the room. Don't let your life get stagnant.
The same goes for my spiritual leaders and peers. What kind of fruit do the members of your church exhibit? I would encourage you to not only look for spiritual leaders who love Jesus and know their stuff, but look for leaders who encourage and compel their members to do the same. You can tell when a church has godly leadership, because the members are enthusiastic about studying the Word and growing in a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ. They are passionate about obeying and worshiping Jesus, reaching out to the community, loving one another and having all things in common. They make disciples, give generously and love expensively in the name of Jesus.
No one is self-sufficient. No one was designed to be. Take a look at any craft, trade, hobby, or passion you are currently pursuing. Would you be motivated to discipline yourself if not for the people encouraging you along the way? What about those celebrities and champions who inspire us to do our best? Even if there’s only one person who’s leading you, coming alongside you and saying, “You can do better. I know you can. Keep on!” You need that person. You need those people. So don’t feel bad when you can’t make it on your own. You weren’t meant to be. Go out and find those people.