Thursday, March 29, 2012

Does God care about my 1/2 Marathon?

I believe that the Lord cares deeply about each of us. 
I believe that he knows the number of our days and how we will spend them.
I believe he knows me far better than I know myself.
Down to the very number of hairs on my head.
I believe he loves me in a way I'll never fully comprehend, this side of Heaven.
I believe He cares.

But I can't really say whether I believe He cares that I ran a half marathon in my seventh month of pregnancy.
Surely He has bigger fish to fry.
However, I am more convinced than ever that he can use even 13.1 miles of exercise to reveal Himself.
Because He cares.
For months I've worked hard to complete something.  Not something that would break any records or that would be all that noteworthy.  Just a personal goal.  Something I needed in this fourth pregnancy.  Something that I wanted to do JUST FOR ME.
I wanted to run (or at least walk/run) a 1/2 marathon in my third trimester.
It was just something to work toward. Something to be healthy. An excuse to breathe in the sunshine (or the moonlight) several times a week. Often alone, sometimes with fellow-runner-encouragers, but always just to enjoy the miles.

And then February happened.  And February was hard.  It was really hard.  It was busy because, for most of the month, we had 6 small children in our home again (plus one tiny one growing inside of me).  But more than that it was emotionally exhausting.  There were tough decisions that RRL and I had to make, ones no one should have to face.  And therefore, not a lot of sleep. 
Definitely not any running.
So, for the three weeks leading up to my big "goal" I didn't run a step.  Not one.
And a few days before the race, I'll admit to being discouraged.
I know it is silly, it was just another run, but for some reason the thought of missing it meant so much more to me at that point. I began to pray "Lord, I don't know if this race means anything to you.  I honestly don't.  But, would you please redeem the miles"  I prayed that somehow, though it defied all "training tips", though I hadn't exercised in weeks, though I was getting further and further along in pregnancy, that somehow I would feel better this day running than ever.  I think deep down, I was praying that He would give RRL and I the chance to enjoy that 13.1 together.  I was praying that this run would be a marker at the end of another (or continuing) tough time to redeem the times we had to give up time together.  Not because we deserved that or were entitled to that.  Just because it was something we had looked forward to and we were really ready for something to just be FUN.  I didn't really care if we ran fast.  I just wanted to finish.  To enjoy it.  Together.

And you know what, WE DID!  We finished the 1/2 marathon much faster than I anticipated.  There were some difficult moments, we were definitely sore afterward, but there was so much about it that was just plain FUN!  It wasn't our fastest 1/2 (by a long shot) but crossing the finish line, holding RRL's hand, Christopher snug in my belly, was definitely my proudest race finish (by a long shot).  I cried.  And couldn't help but throw my hands in the air in thanksgiving and praise as we crossed the final threshold. 
(And I loved that moment so much, I'm even willing to show you this quite unattractive picture, belly poking out and all...the closest thing to a "belly shot" you'll see on this piece of the www).

The even cooler thing, though, is that it wasn't just fun.  It was healing.  Around the same time, our preacher started a series called "The Race".  I've loved hearing about the parallels he saw from running to our "Race" as Christians.  Especially in this season it was something I could identify with.  And it made this 1/2 marathon finish mean even more to me. 
That said, you should definitely use this link to download "The Race" podcasts ASAP. 

Thanks to RA's encouragement to examine our life race and this timely personal metaphor, here's what I've learned:
- Sometimes the time for training you have in one season, is to prepare you for a completely different one.  Maybe, just like He used the miles I had put in months before the half marathon, God can take scriptures we've memorized, prayers we've prayed, relationships we have formed, faith heroes we've studied and use them during the seasons that are crazy, those in which we have little time to "train".  Continued training is important, but He is the source of the energy and strength when its really time to hit the pavement and RUN.
- Sometimes my "running anyway" isn't for me at all.  Sometimes it is to encourage someone else.  I can't tell you how many times someone along the race course, noting my bouncing belly and sign on my back indicating our fourth "baby on board", said something to the effect of "if SHE can finish this, so can I".  I want to run life that way.  Authentically enough to let people know I'm not perfect, but bravely enough to let them know I'm running anyway.

- Sometimes I need the "us" in Hebrews 12:1 as much as I need the "perseverance".  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. -NLT  I wouldn't have attempted this 13.1 if it weren't for the encouragement of knowing that RRL was going to stick right by my side for every step.  Even though the pace would be much slower than he was capable of, he had promised to stay with me and I knew he would remind me the whole way of the goal.  He does that in our life race as well.  RRL points me to the goal, which makes the endurance come more easily.  And I love running together.
- And on that note, and maybe more than anything else I learned, I needed a good swift kick in the "my-race-ain't-so-bad" pants.  As we worked through "The Race" series at church and learned about faith heroes (in the Bible and living among us today), I had to admit I've got much to be thankful for when it comes to the particular course that I've been set on.  And I'm gonna keep running it.  I might even get really crazy once in a while, throwing my hands in the air with praise and thanksgiving just to say "this is awesome" (even if it means letting some of my "imperfections" hang out a little).

So, I don't know if God cares about a 1/2 marathon. 
But I know He gave me that 13.1 miles of fun with the guy I love.
And used it to bring me a few steps closer to Himself, as well. 

Thank you, Lord.
Thank you that you've used that special day to reveal so much to me.
Thank you for teaching me about this life RACE.
For loving me.
Just because. 
You care.


Audrey J. said...

Thank you times infinity for this message. I needed this desperately today. Love you!!!

Betsy@Living in the Moment said...

Just one word. Wow!

Nicole Crist said...

I want you to know that I greatly respect and admire you as a wife, mother, and follower of Jesus. I have learned from watching you run your life-race and was especially encouraged as I watched you run in this very half marathon! :) You have modeled for me, and so many other young women, what it looks like to be a God-honoring woman. You are truly beautiful!! Thank you for sharing this!