This week the weather turned hot and I had two nagging blisters on my toes. Suffice it to say, my runs were practically non-existent. I tried going out early on Wednesday to beat the heat, but ended up doing a run/walk because my blisters hurt.
Cutting myself some slack, I decided to rest my body and prepare for a nice long run today. I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m., figuring I needed to get out early to fit in two hours of running before the heat caught up with me. I laid out my clothes, found some sunscreen to apply in the morning, bandaged up one big toe for blister prevention, and settled into bed to read for a bit before sleep.
Having not set an alarm for several weeks, my mind started racing after I read for nearly an hour, then finally turned off the light. “I need to get to sleep, my alarm goes off in 6 hours!” my mind told me. “I’m not going to have enough energy to run 13.1 miles if I only get 5 hours of sleep!” it taunted later.
The past couple months I’ve been sleeping quite well. After the trauma of returning from our overseas trip and battling the insomnia induced anxiety for weeks and weeks, I’d accepted my situation and rested in God’s faithfulness. Last night, I took a deep breath and prayed for calm and comfort.
Then I remembered why I run.
I don’t run to cross something off my list or achieve a goal I set for myself.
I love my long runs because I get to spend two hours alone with God. I pray, meditate on God’s love, ask for strength, and enjoy the companionable silence of His presence.
This prayerful, contemplative time with God isn’t dependent on achieving a specific emotional or physical state. Sometimes my runs hurt and I struggle through the miles, other times I feel euphoric, like I could run forever. Either way, and in all the many types of runs in between, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is with me. Simply soaking in the moment and relying on God’s provision for the next step, the next breath, the next moment, is a precious experience.
I peacefully surrendered to the fact that I would feel tired on my run, but that was okay. I didn’t have to run a half marathon distance or hit a certain pace. Those goals are fun to set and shoot for, but they aren’t the true reason I run.
For the first hour of running today, I listened to a book study on Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig. I’m about half way through the 32 sessions that ponder this book that I’ve come to cherish. Pastor Rhode leads his study group through the book slowly and carefully. I’ve loved listening to a session daily since starting this practice on Easter.
Today’s section of the book discussed how the Psalms are wonderful meditations on God’s love and plan for us. They noted many more Psalms are focused on laments, pain and struggle, than on joy and celebration. It’s easy to praise God when we’re feeling contented and hopeful. It’s much harder to acknowledge God’s faithfulness when we hurt and struggle.
I broke into a big smile as this passage was recounted: “The righteous do not know their own way; they do not see where they are going; they travel on an unseen journey with an unseen guide. But the Lord knows their way; invisibly He leads them step-by-step along their way with Him. As they meditate on His World each morning and evening, they discover their way through life, the unseen way in which they travel, like pilgrims to a holy place…” (pg 135).
In little ways, this uncertain, unknowing way of life plays itself out while I run. I don’t know what route I’m going to take exactly, deciding along the way which turns and paths to take. I don’t know what thoughts and feelings will occur to me, what songs I’ll listen to or what moments of inspiration may or may not strike.
There’s so much I don’t know, so I trust that the Lord knows the way. And he faithfully does.