“As I type this, I am taking the last few steps of my training for my first marathon.” This was the text message I sent to two of my besties, one of whom was in the midst of living out her bucket list at Disney World at least two decades earlier than expected. Later that same day, I scrolled through Facebook and was reminded that a mere two years ago, she was lying in the operating room enduring extremely precarious brain surgery all who love her remained paralyzed in our inhales.
Her journey in the past two years has been one of humble resolve, gracious thanksgiving and piercing truth-telling of courage in the Lord. Diagnosed with a rare genetic disease that predicts to end her life on this earth too soon, she has embraced the here and now, living each and every day as if it were her last and teaching us all about perspective along the way.
Heather’s perspective has enabled me to better understand why it has been hard for me to even start a post about my running and all that it means to me. Running has taught me how to choose life. It has taught me to never say never and to passionately pursue my hopes and dreams. It has taught me about enduring, pushing through the wall that is mile 10 for me, about recognizing the ache enough to change my stride ever so slightly to provide my body relief and ability to press on. It has taught me about discipline, courage and true grit – most especially when the voices of doubt have relentlessly attempted to overtake my mind.
Running has changed me. It has made me a stronger Christian, a stronger wife, a stronger mother, a stronger daughter and a stronger friend. I did not start out on this running journey with the aspiration to run a full marathon, stating with great resolve, that “that would be crazy.” Training changed my mind on this statement, along with many other ideas and principles I have previously given my allegiance.
I am not sure when the changed occurred, whether at the sight of one of the endless landscapes running early in the morning affords or the smell of the morning dew, not yet tainted by the things that will soon trample and destroy its pure aroma. It may have been the feeling of accomplishment at the completion of a race (known as the “runner’s high”) or the taste of clean fresh water as it coated my sticky mouth and throat, quenching my thirst so completely that it took my breath away in gratitude for this resource too often taken for granted. It may also have been the sound of my running partner, my “sole sister,” as she uttered the deepest heartfelt prayers on my behalf as our feet pound the pavement in synchronicity. Somewhere in the midst of my senses, I lost the numbness and started to feel. I started living.
Hebrews 12:1 says this, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The leading up to this marathon has been a journey for me of throwing off those things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles with my cloud of witnesses by my side, in front of me and behind me, cheering me all the day long.
The trials I have endured in this journey of perseverance have been great. They have been the type that have brought me to my knees, broken. They have been the type that have left me paralyzed, lying in bed, sickeningly afraid to emerge, but knowing I had to, I have kids to take care of. I have been questioned, misunderstood and wrongly accused. I have fought the things that have hindered me – the hurts from the past not forgiven, the deep yearning for earthly justice that had to be released in favor of acceptance of God’s ultimate judgement and the very idea that I deserve anything. I have fought deeply for truth through God’s word and have found it with my iron sharpening husband. But it has not been easy.
It has been a journey of rediscovery of my “essential self”, an acknowledgement of my many shortcomings and a recognizing and pushing through of the uncomfortable when required. I have cultivated a deep endurance within my mind and my heart, far more so than in my physical body, which too, has been great.
Heather has taught me a lot about living. Running has taught me a lot about living. Corrie Ten Boom, a famous protector of persecuted Jews, survived life in Nazi concentration camps where her father and sister died. As her father was dying, the story goes that she burst into tears and exclaimed, “I need you! You can’t die! You can’t!” “Corrie”, he began gently, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your train ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t run ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”
God gives us what we need, one day at a time, and for us runners, one mile at a time. What I needed at age twenty is different from what I need now at almost forty. What I need at mile three is different from what I need at mile fifteen.
One cannot step out and run a marathon without the proper training, for they would surely fail and suffer potential dire consequences as a result. This is as it is in life. We cannot expect to run the race of this life well without first preparing our hearts and minds to be fully engaged with the confidence that God will give us all that we need one day at a time. Living a life surrendered to God’s plan for us unleashes the type of powerful endurance it takes to finish the race well.