I have a friend who is doing something awesome. I think she is just the greatest and I am so proud of her. I said to her yesterday, "Wow, you are really doing it!", to which she responded, "Just barely."
Do you ever feel like that? You are hanging on.
But just barely.
This past week I barely finished a run. I went with my training partner who smoked me. I struggled to keep up with her the entire time. I faked having to use the bathroom just so I could stop at a corner gas station and hide from her for a few minutes. I usually keep up ok. This run however, was doomed from the beginning.
I don't care what your mom says. If it's your dad's birthday or not, DO NOT eat a cheese burger, a loaded baked potato, and cake and ice cream within a half an hour of running. You will regret this decision almost immediately. If you have been pregnant and have had heartburn, you know the discomfort I suffered the entire run. Also FYI, oat cake is not healthy just because it is made with oats. It is not fuel for a work out, it is slow you down.
It wasn't just the undigested birthday dinner. I was just tired. I had already had a long day and this was our first evening run together. I was sore. My knees hurt. My bum ankle ached. I limped-jogged the last half mile. My friend actually jogged in place at one point while I caught up after a hill until I told her to cut it out. It was embarrassing. I wanted to maintain her pace with as little effort as she seemed to be exerting, and I don't like to fall behind. This run wasn't going well.
Afterwards, I started on my list of excuses to try and console myself. She's just a young little thing. I was older, after all! I have old woman knees! I've had three kids! Surely that has done irreversable damage to my body, right?! That whole evening I felt defeated. I sulked around the house while I got ready for bed and tried to think of other things I was good at because obviously I am just "not a runner."
The next morning I woke up and I realized something.
Last night I ran 9 miles. It was ugly and I wasn't at my best. I did the walk of shame up a few hills, but so what? I did it.
All of this came together for me on Sunday morning during Praise and Worship. Our worship team killed it. From the moment it began I felt ushered in to the Presence of God and I became overwhelmed with emotion. My thankfulness to Jesus for all He has done and brought me through this last year boiled over and I lost myself for a bit.
My God. Look what you have done.
I thought back to a church service I had attended last fall. It was the same building, the same room, probably even the same worship leaders up front leading worship. That day was in stark contrast to the freedom I experienced in worship this Sunday.
I remember that Sunday morning well. I had left my house 5 minutes late on purpose. I didn't want to talk to anyone and I didn't want anyone to talk to me. In fact, don't even look at me. I mustered every single ounce of discipline in my body to pull myself out of bed that day. I don't remember getting the kids ready and packing them into the car. Those weeks were sort of a blur.
I slumped into a seat in the very back row closest to the exit. I felt defeated. I was embarrassed to bear my swollen eyes. That day was ugly. My week had been hell. I am still not quite ready to share how exactly low I felt that day, or explain how hard that rock at the bottom feels when you land on it.
I did not even want to be in that service that day. Why had I come? I wanted to hide; just like I did in the corner gas station that day. I wanted to cry and be alone and wallow in my defeat.
We had had worship that morning like we always do and there was a message like there usually is. I was just blah. I left limping. Hurting. Struggling. Barely hanging on.
But hanging on.
It's not just that victory I celebrated this past Sunday morning. It's understanding that Jesus loved me, saved me, reached down for me when I was weak and ugly and set me back on my course that truly overwhelms me. When people ask me now, How did you overcome that?, tears always come to my eyes. I'm at a loss for words. I honestly don't know. Just, Jesus.
Psalm 91 explains it quite perfectly.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.a2I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”3Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.4He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you......14“Because heb loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
The enemy says you are weak for struggling. He will say, "you are clearly just not a runner." He will say, "step off the course you are slowing others down". He will shame you and call you embarrassing. I only know this because he's said all this to me too.
So your journey got ugly. You're out of shape. You've experienced a walk of shame or two. You feel defeated. Others seem so far ahead of you. If asked how you are hanging on, you might respond,
So what? Keep trekking. Limp-jog if you have to. Hide out in the bathroom if you must. But get back on the course.
Maybe you recognize that place I described from last fall. Maybe you feel defeated and it seems useless to get back up. But you are a runner.
You are a runner on a far more important course than only pavement. I know this because you were designed by your creator to reach a specific goal. You were designated a race that is unique for your life. We have all been charged with hurdling difficulties, and to keep trekking towards that goal. We start by getting in the race, by seeking Jesus.
And by the way, I never realized how out of shape I was until I started running. Sitting on my couch eating a fudgie I felt quite comfortable and content. Only once you get in the game do you notice the pain of discipline. So if you're in pain, congrats. You're in the race. You're a runner.