For the last nine months or so I've been running four mornings a week with a friend. When Gene first mentioned that he ran at 5:30 it never, ever, occurred to me that he meant "a.m." It wasn't even as though I thought "I wonder whether he means in the morning or afternoon?" I just assumed he meant after work - so I asked if I could run with him and he said he would be glad of the company. Only later did I realise that he meant 5:30am.
Anyway, long story short, we run together and I can honestly say that most mornings when it's wet, cold and dark the only reason I swing my legs out of bed at 5:15am is because I know that Gene is going to be waiting for me at the end of my road. No other reason. Left to myself I'd roll over and sleep some more telling myself that one day off won't hurt. Such is the benefit, indeed the necessity, of accountability.
This morning I learnt another lesson.
I was training by myself and I found that I ended up running quite a bit slower. When I run with Gene we spur each other on and generally we keep a pretty good pace up but this morning, on my own, I was telling myself that I was doing OK and that I was certainly working hard enough. At the end of the 4 mile circuit, however, my watch told me another story. It had been a rubbish pace whilst I had convinced myself otherwise. The fact was that I needed Gene to prevent me from coasting. I suppose a runner by himself could end up pushing himself too hard and so needs a pace setter to prevent premature exhaustion..... but I guess I'll never know about that scenario.
I realise that to pursue spiritual growth I need accountability to maintain healthy life-giving disciplines but I also need a pace setter who'll prevent me from kidding myself that I'm making good progress when I'm not. Left to myself I'll coast but with others who will spur me on, who'll say "Come on, let's pick up the pace for a bit", I'll thrive and grow.