Running for Today

Today, on the phone with my sister, I said,  “I ran four miles yesterday without stopping.” The older sister/younger sister relationship allows for much grace in the area of achievement, mainly because I’ve been telling my big sister my accomplishments for 28 years now. But this was not just another moment of bragging induced by adolescent nostalgia, this was a moment of me saying the truth out loud for myself. 

A brief history of my turmoiled relationship with running: I didn’t. I had a higher-than-average mile time as a seventh grader because I took off the second the gym teacher’s whistle shrieked so that I could get it over with. Years of dance only furthered my running form of bouncing fairy feet, and I consistently left any time spent running with a matching pair of shin splints. I loathed running. 

Living two blocks from the ocean has blacked out any possible excuse I could come up with as to why I’m not out and about more than I am curled up inside reading or re-watching Stranger Things. Let me be clear: I have already re-watched Stranger Things 1 & 2 in preparation for the Season 3 premier. I have also taken up running. Naturally, on the first day, I ran towards the ocean. I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth letting my fairy feet relax into a heel-ball-toe rhythm that fought every ounce of dancer in me. I relaxed my hands like I’d heard my sister’s cross country coach tell her to do, and I ran. 

The first few days were pretty ugly. I stopped regularly, walked parts, and couldn’t figure out how to work my breath. But I loved the freedom running gave me; freedom to move, to explore my limits, and be out among the life happening down by the ocean. So I kept pushing and worked up to two miles, then three, now four. I don’t have a specific goal in mind and I’m not running for any specific purpose, but here’s why I’m obsessed with running: it forces you to be exactly where you are.  

When I set out on my first run, I had no idea what I was capable of. I quickly realized that running tested my body, but it more so tested my mind. My mind was the thing that encouraged my body into quitting or pushing on. The thoughts going on inside my head getting jarred by each stride have the strongest influence over what happens on each run. I learned quickly that if I focused on the end of the run, the finish line if you will, I struggled. If I thought about all the ground I’d already covered, I’d lose my momentum and eventually want to stop. But when I focus on the music in my ears and taking each and every step exactly when it comes, I last longer, I run faster, and I can push myself harder. 

I’ve been having countless conversations lately about daily bread. What I’m talking about is that moment in the Our Father where Jesus says, “give us today our daily bread...” The moment where he emphasizes that our Father’s grace is sufficient and we would do well to keep our focus on what His grace in our lives looks like today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Not next week. Today. Running has been a physical representation of this for me. It forces me to be fully present where I am. It brings up the mantra: do what you can with what you have where you are. These have been the themes of my life lately as I re-entrust the desires of my heart to a God who’s promises are big enough for eternity, but dying to meet me right in this moment exactly where I am. He sees my needs as small in comparison to the need for surrendering to His ways. He still sees my needs and takes delight in showing me how we’ll get there together, but I have come to the place of daily humility in the full knowledge that anything I try to do for myself beyond today is outside of His call. I will still make plans and look forward to future events, but His heart is for the dailies: daily surrender, daily trust, daily reliance on our savior who promises to hem us in behind and before so that we can be fully alive to his promises today. 

 

Real Talk

A couple weeks ago when the last relationship I was in started to fall apart, God came in closer than He's ever been - I finally began to understand that going to Him did not give me more control of my situation because what He wanted was more surrender. First, I surrendered all my expectations, even though they'd been there for over a year. Second, I surrendered to vulnerability and misunderstanding and thirdly, I surrendered everything.

Only a day out, my heart has never hurt more, but I start each day with handing over and speaking honestly about the desires of my heart to my God who hears me; the pain is not something I want to prolong, but I know how important it is to give way to a healthy grieving process to allow God to heal what's been hurt, no matter how deep the cracks. 

Because of His faithfulness, I can face each day knowing I am fully loved and fully worthy just as I am - just as He made me. 

When the Israelites left Egypt, it took them 40 years of following, stumbling, and fighting through the wilderness before they finally arrived in the land God had promised them. They didn't get to travel smoothly from point A to point B, and because that's what they were expecting, they took their eyes off the one true God to worship false gods. When God leads us off course, it's a blessing - it's a sign like a pillar of fire that His promises are still true and all we need to do is to continue to trust Him - because trusting Him can be challenging enough. If the end goal is to be more like Jesus, trusting God to lead us through no matter the circumstance allows us to fully commit our way to Him, even if it's not the path we were expecting.

There is no easy way to grieve, but there is always constant hope. Mercies continue to be new and  every choice becomes an opportunity to press into God or pull away into bitterness. 

I just want to encourage you today - if you feel hopeless or hurt so deep you don't know how you'll recover, God has not gone anywhere. Even in the hardest kind of confusion and pain, we're allowed to be exactly as we are without sugar-coating anything because God already knows. He's lived it. His promise is beauty from ashes, steadfast love, and victory - it's up to us to claim these promises in faith. 

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts my head high. I call out to you and you answer me from your holy mountain. I lay down and sleep and wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
— Psalm 3:3-5