This past Sunday, I ran my 4th 1/2 marathon, 13.1 miles. I am not sure why I got into doing these, but even after saying, “Never again” after the first one, I just keep signing up and going through the rigors of training.

When Sunday’s race started, I found myself praying for a number of things as my feet hit the pavement – strength, endurance, faith (that I could actually finish another one) and availability. The last one may seem a bit strange to some, but what I was asking for was the ability to see anyone that needed a pace setter, or encouragement, or a friendly smile, or whatever, and the courage to do something about it.

About mile 6, there was a woman who said as I passed her, “Oh, you are passing me again and still running. I keep having to stop and walk.” As I talked with Julie, I found out she was participating in her first 1/2 marathon and had only been able to train to 8 miles because of her two small children (3 years and 18 months) at home. For the next couple of miles she kept pace with me and we chatted. I encouraged her when she started to slow and praised her for going for it. At mile 8, I took a quick bathroom break and she went on ahead, but by mile 9 I was with her again and she started to feel discouraged that I could catch her. I talked with her and encouraged her some more and eventually, I ran on when she had to walk for a bit again.

About 1/3 mile before the finish line, Julie was suddenly at my side again. She had gotten a burst of energy as she realized she was about finish the race and see her kids. Then I watched as she caught sight of her kids and husband waiting for her just before the finish. The sheer joy on her face as she realized she was about to complete this 13.1 mile race and that her family was there to share the moment with her was more awesome to me than the fact that I myself was finishing the same race. I was so glad that I could be available to encourage her along the way and see her accomplish what she set out to do.

Being available to others during a race seems like a strange place to be available. I mean, when you race, the idea is supposed to be the first to the finish line and do whatever you need to get there. (That’s not why I race, but follow me for a minute.) So being available to someone else would potentially slow you down and allow someone else to overtake you.

I think that is how some of us go through life. Not intentionally, but we are so rushed and so focused on our goals and our plans that we sometimes forget that we need to think about other people and be available to them. Or better yet, come along side them and help them achieve their goals. And yet, if we would more often be available to the people who the Lord would have us help (whatever that looks like), we would be so blessed as we see them achieve their milestones, and experience their breakthroughs.

I encourage you, as you go through your week (which, if it is anything like mine, is packed full) to pray and ask God to help you to be available to His leading always, to be able to see the people who need someone to come up along side of them and encourage them along the way. See what kind of blessings come your way as you make yourself available always.