"Do you think you can run again?"

“Do you think you can run again?” she asked me. Our feet sloshed in soaked shoes, and we had just scaled a short wall. When I had started to walk, she had slowed, wordlessly, to match my pace. We were doing a 5k called the “Wipeout Run.” It was hilarious. It was messy. It was exhausting. And it was so fun!

Morgan has been my best friend since the first day of high school. We played basketball that year. It is safe to say that that’s not the way God has gifted either of us. We spent many a moment nearly hyperventilating during practices, and we spent many a moment on the sidelines during games. The coach called me Cory the entire season, and I tried to remember to respond to the name that wasn’t mine. Occasionally, Morgan would hit me to remind me that that was me. Right, Cory. Here to serve. Or, you know, warm the bench. There was one particularly glorious moment when I was subbing in for Morgan, and we collided—so hard that we both fell down. It was really special.

I honestly can’t remember if Morgan continued her basketball career after that year. I suspect not. I can assure you that I did not.

Anyway, fifteen years later I told her I wanted to do the Wipeout Run, and she signed us up for it! She told me I could thank her later for her help in fulfilling my life-long goals. [Morgan, consider this your “later” and public thanks!]

So on March 28, we did it! We ran almost the whole way except for the part where I walked, and she let me. And then she asked the question that has rolled around in my mind ever since: “Do you think you can run again?”

Sometimes we need to walk. We need to sit down. We need a minute to catch our breath. We need the ones who love us to slow, to match our pace or sit down beside us, to sub in for us when we miss a play. We need the tender patience and quiet company. Sometimes we need to know that they are tired too. Sometimes we make our very best friends sitting there on the sideline, struggling to catch our breath, grateful to find we aren’t the only ones.

But there comes a time when our breath has slowed to normal, when the strength has returned to our weary legs, when we are strong enough to run again. And we need to hear the confident but unhurried encouragement of those beside us: “Do you think you can run again?”

Because they have recognized that we are ready.

Mine has been a season on the sidelines. A season of quiet (or sometimes very reluctant) rest. It has been a little bit difficult. I have wondered what my place is. It seems like I have spent many a game on the sidelines watching others shoot lay-ups and three-pointers and wondering why (or on more honest days—if) I’m even on the team.

“Do you think you can run again?”

And a little bit of fear catches me off-guard. I thought my answer would be a resounding “Yes!” But the last time I ran, I crashed. I got worn out and worn down. I got disappointed, and at some point it became easier to stop hoping, to stop dreaming, to stop thinking of what might be. Because what might be also might not be. As much as I have disliked the sidelines, I have also found rest here. I have found comfort. I have caught my breath in the relative safety.

“Do you think you can run again?”

Maybe you've found yourself on the sideline too. Maybe you need to know that our God still knows your name, that He isn’t screaming for Cory when your name is Cody. Maybe you need to know that you’re still on the team. Maybe you need to know that He still loves you. Maybe you need to know that your value didn’t change when you sat down on the sideline, when your run slowed to a walk.

Maybe we need to realize that it was God that guided us to this bench. And it wasn't because He was angry or displeased or impatient. It was because He saw the hit we took. He saw the way the heat made us thirst. He saw us fall. He saw us raise our hand for a sub when we couldn't take another step. He wrapped His arm around our heaving shoulders and held us until we could recover. He sat down beside us until we could breathe again.

And His is the most tender voice: “Do you think you can run again?”

He won’t ask until we’re ready. He won’t leave because we aren’t. And maybe what I need to know most of all is that He won’t leave because we are. He isn’t conditioning us to throw us back into the game alone.

“Do you think you can run again?”

I don't know. Maybe. Maybe that’s my answer—maybe. Maybe I can. Maybe I could try. Maybe if You stay right here beside me.

Maybe my answer is really a question: “Do You think I can run again, Lord?”

Maybe your answer is a question too. And maybe we need to know that it's okay to ask. To ask Him. To ask the ones He's placed around us. Am I ready? Can I run again?

And one day, we will stretch our shoulders and warm up our legs. We will let hope and dreams begin to live again. We will let fear mingle with excitement as we hesitantly shuffle from walk to jog. And we will run differently than we ran before, but we will still run.

And I think we will be glad we rested. And I think we will be glad we dared to run again, too.