Recently God sent an empathizer my way.
After work I drove my car to a church nearby to get closer to the bridge. I put on a bright yellow shirt over my uniform and donned my sunglasses and hat and headed for the bridge which connects the city of Clearwater to Clearwater beach.
I looked at my watch. Run for forty minutes, my goal ran through my mind.
In about two weeks, the Iron Girl race over that bridge takes place.
So I determined to train after work on a regular basis until race day since I work near the bridge.
Within minutes I headed up the steep grade of the bridge. Thankfully a fence provided safety from the cars that whizzed by. The view proved wonderful as the sun headed toward the horizon and glimmers of light danced on the water in Clearwater Bay.
When I ran on level ground, it seemed simple. Now my legs ached early on. I felt breathless, but not quite as bad as my previous practice run on the bridge. My inability to catch my breath reminded me of when I vacationed in mountains at a high elevation.
I blew out slowly and took my breath in gradually, so I wouldn’t hyperventilate.
Other runners, walkers, and people on bicycles passed me from behind, and some came over the bridge from the other side. I smiled (more like a grimace) or said or nodded a “hello.”
I rejoiced when I made it to the top and looked around in every direction to enjoy the view, and the sky where pink streaks suddenly appeared. I dared not stop to gaze.
As I made my way down the other side of the bridge, a runner came toward me with a grin on his face even though he too appeared to work hard like me to conquer the bridge—not one of those runners who makes it all look easy.
At the moment we approached one another he raised his left hand to give me a high five. I raised mine, and we connected as my hand slapped against his.
Wow! He understands how I feel right now, I thought. He knows about my battle to breath, and the aches in my legs. He empathizes with the effort it takes to move one foot in front of the other.
Once I made it down the other side of the bridge, I ran until I reached the twenty minute mark and then turned around to head back toward the bridge and up the steep grade again since the race would entail that route.
On the way back up the bridge, I ran into the same runner, and we exchanged high fives, smiles, and empathy again.
My practice run that day felt easier because of that empathizer.
My life feels easier when God sends people who empathize not only with my physical but also with my emotional and spiritual struggles.
But the empathizer who encourages my heart the most calls Himself Jesus.
He came to earth, so He could know how I feel as a human being. He experienced similar battles to the ones I face, and as I draw near to Him I sense His empathy.
Today I looked up the word “empathy.” “The ability to understand and share the feelings of others,” I read in my New Oxford American Dictionary.
In the Bible I found one verse which contained the word “empathize”—Hebrews 4:15, which reads “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” The next verse remains a favorite of mine “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Not only does Jesus understand, but He desires to help.
I look forward to my 5K race on April 9th. During the race I will be surrounded by those who empathize with me. The camaraderie among runners in races always lifts my spirits and causes me to feel connected.
But to have someone who reached out to me on the lonely course of my practice time for the race cheered me up in a special way.
Thank you, Mr. Empathizer. You made my day.