Two weeks ago I was supposed to begin tapering, which means easing off the miles. It is the honeymoon phase of the whole marathon training process (if you could even say there is such a thing!). It's supposed to be the enjoyable time. Instead, I have been doing IT band exercises, foam rolling, icing and taking lots of ibuprofen. Tuesday I even got a cortisone injection.
Why? Why, you say, are you still going to go ahead as planned? Why not set this one out? There will be plenty of other marathons, right? Yes, this would seem to be the most logical answer, just based on the facts, based on the surface of things. Yet let me share with you that which is going on beneath the surface...
Sure, running is one of the best ways to stay physically fit. It is great exercise, etc, etc, etc. True statements, right? True, but surfacy...You see, these are all great benefits to running, and I am glad they are true, but they are not the reasons I run. I run because it is a form of worship. I run because it brings things I have been wrestling over in prayer into focus. It makes that which looked fuzzy become more clear. I run because it puts me into a position to hear from and listen to God. I leave all the activity and noise behind and I can just nestle in and listen. He then infuses me with His strength so that that which appears difficult and unbeatable in my life becomes manageable and conquerable. He transfers His peace and His quietness into my spirit, and thus,
through the discipline of running,
He gives me His rest.
On the surface, choosing to run this marathon was about finishing what I came to do last year--qualify for Boston. Unfortunately, I missed my time by nine minutes. I was determined to come back this year more adequately prepared so I could accomplish that goal. Yet, this training turned into something much deeper than that. You see, we began this year (2011) with a newly acquired identity: umemployed. Jobless is scary for anyone and is especially so when there are five little younguns' depending on you. So we started down a path that we had yet to venture on with God. It has been a daily battle of choosing faith over fear. It has been a precious time of watching our God come through in the most creative ways. In 2011, the name Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will Provide) has become very real to us, and is a dear Name to our family.
Training began at the beginning of summer when the heat came in with a vengeance. Our family was experiencing a drought in more ways than one. Job opportunities from the first of the year had come and gone...dried up. Job leads...dried up. As the three long, hot months of summer loomed before us with all its heat and intensity, we were tempted to let our hope...dry up. But God had a plan, and that plan included running.
So we ran. Some days I hit the road full of frustration (a polite word for anger) with God. Venting and complaining, I would lodge my arguments. Mile after mile, He would diffuse me...His Spirit would minister to me. Mile after mile, He would share His perspective and enlighten me with His promises:
'....Wait...strength will rise as you wait upon me...My ways are not your ways...My power is made perfect in weakness...A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold...Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (run)...So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (emphasis added), and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own...'
And so we waited, and we ran. Day after day, through His Word, a devotional, a song, or a podcast, He sustained. And on the run, He ingrained. He turned fears into faith, He turned sadness to joy, He turned complaints into thanksgiving and He turned strife into peace.
And through the discipline of running,
we found His rest.
And as our training began to taper and summer came to a close, our circumstances hadn't really changed. God had chosen to remain silent in regards to our many heartfelt cries of employment. He chose to say no without an explanation and without direction. Just simply 'no...and wait.' In fact, we seemed further away from an answer than ever.
And yet, by the route of the road He had supplied Himself...quenching our thirst along the parched path. Yes, we had experienced Him as more than enough. As tears and sweat slid down and off, converging together--paining and training colliding into a stream--along the route of the road in the desert of discipline, He gently and firmly established that: 'For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.'
And four hundred or so miles later, one week before the marathon, I was supposed to be tapering. Yet, I was staring at an injury. Honestly, I didn't take it well. You see, at this point, God, Eric and I--we had some mileage going on. Along the route of the road--day in, day out--it had become so much more...so much more than a marathon.
We were a team.
I just had one question on that lonely Monday, one question to His 'no' that was the straw breaking the camel's back:
Why--why are you kicking me off the team?
One question followed by a few more, a tantrum of sorts: "All summer long, your answer has been, 'No, no, no...'...all summer long... and now you are going to say no to this too? This, this way of worshipping, this thing we got going on, this really good thing--you are saying no??!!!"
His retort came quietly the following day through my Oswald Chambers devotional, befittingly entitled 'Getting Into God's Stride':
'It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him--it means getting your second win spiritually. In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. The individual is merged into a personal oneness with God and God's stride and His power alone are exhibited. It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways....It is God's Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible...Getting into God's stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don't give up because the pain is intense right now--get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.'
...And suddenly, I feel small. And my wailings, they feel small...
Oh forgive me, God, for once again making my life and circumstances all about my wants and my desires. Forgive me for not trusting you even when things don't go my way...help me to remember it's not about the results, it's about the relationship.
My rebellious spirit submits and I match His pace and catch His stride. As we bow our heads during our family prayer time, I choose to thank Him for this newly aquired difficulty. I choose to thank Him that He might be delivering another 'no'. As I did, His Spirit of Peace fills me with sweet surrender to a marathon Sunday that might or might not involve me as a participant.
As the week went on, my knee slightly improved. I've decided to go forward by faith on Sunday and run this thing and give it my all--until I can't. Today's Jesus Calling was most fitting:
Be prepared to suffer for Me, in My Name. All suffering has meaning in My kingdom. Pain and problems are opportunites to demonstrate your trust in Me. Bearing your circumstances bravely--even thanking Me for them--is one of the hightest forms of praise. This sacrifice of thanksgiving rings golden-toned bells of Joy throughout heavenly realms...When suffering strikes, remember that I am sovereign and that I can bring good out of everything. Do not try to run from pain or hide from problems. Instead, accept adversity in My Name, offering it up to Me and My purposes. Thus your suffering gains meaning and draws you closer to Me. Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity through your trust and thankfulness.
Sunday I am running into the wilderness of the unknown, an unknown that is more than likely going to involve some pain. Whether my body can withstand the race, only God knows, but since He happens to be a team member of mine, I figure He'll keep me posted. My goals have lowered a bit; I honestly will be ecstatic with just crossing the finish. Anything better than that is a long-shot. But since God specializes in long-shots, I am going to go in with everything and give it my all, knowing His power is perfected in my weakness.
Sunday, as I'm running along and hearing 'Too Legit to Quit' blaring in my ear, I'm going to be praying for His help, His power, His ability...remembering that yes--
He is definitely TOO LEGIT, so there is NO WAY on this side of heaven that I am going TO QUIT.