Last week I lost a friend, someone exactly my age, to pancreatic cancer. As I prepared to preach at his funeral I learned he had a tattoo on his back with Proverbs 27:17 etched there. My friend, in the last five years of his life, competed in 4 full Iron Man triathlons where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then you run 26.2 miles. Less that .01% of the world’s population has tried this race, even fewer complete it. Jeff’s best time was 11 hours and 9 minutes. Can you imagine pushing yourself that hard for that long, mentally, physically or spiritually?
Jeff was the kind of guy that was all in with whatever he did. He had that verse tattooed on his back because he understood that you cannot do hard things alone. We are better together. The verse reads, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. He trained with others for his races and he nurtured relationships in all aspects of his life. He accepted the expertise of others in his cancer journey. You cannot do hard things alone.
In grief, as I prepared for his service, I thought about who in my life has sharpened me lately. I realized it was two women. One is a yoga teacher and one a nutritionist/Keto coach. My life has been changed significantly by humbly putting myself under the guidance of these women. One taught me how to breathe, stretch, balance and set intentions for my practice and the other taught me how to change my diet for long-term health. She equipped me as well for the social and emotional challenges of eating a new way. Both women are practicing with me. As iron sharpens iron…
I am a super responsible person. I’m good at figuring things out. It is difficult for me to admit I need help. It is humbling to ask for a coach.
For me, it happened in tiny steps. My first step was to confess I could not figure these things out alone. I had tried and failed. Second step, who can help me? Third, I had ask for help. Fourth, I had go ahead and admit help will be needed for a very long time. I’m only at the beginning of my learning.
As iron sharpens iron, these women brought their life stories, knowledge and expertise into my life. Jeff’s coaches did the same for him. We were not meant to do hard things alone.
As the new year begins, I say thank you to my coaches. I give thanks for my friend Jeff.
And, I ask just two questions of all of us: Do you need a coach for a hard part of life? Or this, who needs you to help sharpen them?
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three grown children, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. This blog is written in memory of Jeff Folkes and in honor of Lynne Clem and Carole Freeman.