Lace up

I lace up. It’s been a while. This will hurt.

I know the pulsing aches that will come afterwards. I recall my “clear the cobwebs” cough and that feeling that my lungs might implode.

I’ve been in this exact spot so many times before… knowing the pain, resisting yet relishing it. A strange mental tug of war goes on. I hate taking those initial steps before my muscles have warmed, my rhythm kicks in and I feel the wind on my cheeks.

In that moment, nothing can motivate- not new kicks, catchy tunes or a cool wicking tank. That step over the threshold only happens as an act of sheer willpower. I will run today.

But once that first step is surmounted, the momentum builds along with my adrenaline. I look forward to the exhilaration, that sense that I can glide across the pavement like a fleet footed gazelle. I crave the endorphin rush because in that moment I feel like Super Woman.

This is life.

Sometimes, the season is a grueling marathon- 26.2 arduous, never ending miles. You long to give up, content to be a non-finisher. But somewhere in the back of your mind, a voice says keep going.

Some days, the wind is at your back, you’ve consumed just the right amount of carbs and your twitch muscles are twitching just right. You’re out of the blocks at the gun, setting a PR for your fastest 5K.

Only rarely is life like one of those fun color runs where you feel just peachy because at the finish line, your sweat serves to attract the billows of colored powder, making you look like you’ve been to a rave.

The truth is, we are all running an ultra (in runner’s speak, that’s 100 miles- only the true hardcore crazies attempt these). Within this ultra are hundreds of little milestones, (some good, some bad), roadblocks and refreshment stations. How do we manage? Training and groundwork- in every form- faith, self-talk, someone to run with, conditioning, proper clothing, understanding the terrain, etc.

No one is going to hand us the victor’s medal. We have to run hard, fight for it and keep going even when it feels like the race is extremely rigged or when our muscles feel like burning sinew. Rest assured, there’ll be wafting breezes and down hills along the way. Then there are those people who run alongside us for short or long periods of time, speaking into our lives, words that carry us to the next rest station.

Some of the legs of this ultra will be gladly forgotten, others cherished for the sheer feeling of invincibility. All add up to the race we were meant for.

As for me, I intend to run my very hardest.

The Great Dichotomy

I’ve been plagued this week. Burdened. Weighed down- with this thought:

Why do we, who already have the victor’s crown sitting atop our heads get defeated, bogged down and live as if we are losing the race???

This is the great {seeming} dichotomy of the Christian life- something our previous pastor liked to refer to as “the already and the not yet”.

We already have victory over sin in Christ because at the cross, He paid the FULL AND COMPLETE redemption of our souls. He did not cry out from the cross, “I am done here.” He cried out, “It is finished.” This meant it was done, consummate, having fully satisfied God’s demands, wholly assuaging His wrath against sin.

In Christ, we have that same fullness and encompassing finished work given to us. We are wearing the victor’s wreath though instead of the crown of thorns. Ours is the sweet rest and relief of a triumph- and here’s the amazing part- that WE DID NOT HAVE TO EARN OR WORK FOR.  Imagine getting to the end of a 26.2 miler without a drop of sweat, twinge of sore muscles, or one ounce of fatigue. Impossible with man. Not just possible but our REALITY with Christ’s cross work! How amazing is that?

Yet, the “not yet” of our humanity is that we grovel in the dust of defeat, wallowing around in the entanglement of sin or trying circumstances. For many sweet Christians I know (and myself included), we have spent many seasons of time on the ground, in the dirt with the paralysis of a side stitch or Charlie horse. Perhaps it is depression, debilitating physical pain, anxiety attacks, prodigal children, a rocky marriage, or financial despair. It could even be an outright denial of God’s truths that we once had clung to unswervingly.

We find ourselves temporarily unable to go on, press forward or run through the discomfort. We have allowed Satan to convince us that we have already lost this race. Suddenly, we look around and see the other runners passing us, our goal time or hopes vanish. We succumb to the subjugation of sin and self- unable or not willing to remember the victory.

But remember it WE MUST! For when those seasons of life fall upon us (and they will in some form or another), this is our only HOPE, our SOLACE, our POWER to carry on.

In the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian on his journey of faith carried a burden. It was a heavy load- pressing hard against his back, making walking almost impossible, causing strain and toil that felt to him unbearable. When he came to the cross and looked upon it, he considered the magnitude of what had been done there. In that beautiful yet agonizing moment, his burden came off and rolled into a nearby cave. He never saw nor felt it again.

So you see, my dear readers, this is really no dichotomy at all. We ARE victors in Christ. It is finished. Let’s start reveling in it! Savor the prize! Delight in the Savior! Rest in VICTORY!

I’ll Race You

I stood slightly hunched over with a concentrated anticipation. My ears rang a little from the clamor of the crowd. I might have appeared poised and ready -in a solid runner’s stance- but my legs were all wobbly. My heart felt as if it would convulse right out of my chest. My mouth was dry like the desert in June.

Clearly, I was out of my league, surrounded by collegiate looking athletes- the kind that run a sub 4 minute mile. All I could think was: “What were you thinking, signing up for this wave of the race? Remember, this is just a personal goal thing. Don’t kill yourself. Ignore the fact that you are in a sea of 20-somethings who are literally going to leave you in the dust.”

POP! The gun startled me even though I was ready for it. The mass of amped up humanity moved together– but only for the first 30 seconds- to complete this one-mile race. It would be over in less time than it takes to eat lunch.

By the first corner, I realized that most of the pack had passed me. When I rounded the second corner, into the straightaway, I saw an almost empty street.  My heart sank.  Was I really going as slow as that?

My legs were feeling like the legs of a Barbie doll- rubbery and stiff. Then before I could process what was happening, they buckled under me. I almost fell to the ground if not for the arm of a friend that held me up. She looked at me worried and said that I should quit. Determined, I stood.  I would keep going. (Hey, my stubbornness has to count for something, right?!) 🙂

For the next minute or two, all I remember is seeing people cross the street in front of me, acting as if the race was over, the ringing in my ears- the kind you hear when you are about to pass out, my parched throat and the burning in my chest.

But as I rounded the next corner and finally the last, my eyes saw what I came for- the finish line. I had to gather every ounce of strength to cross it and I prayed that I would not be the very last to do so.

At  9:39, I finished the one-mile loop, fourth from the last runner. Exhausted. Depleted. Weak. Embarrassed. Perplexed. It was one mile and I totally bombed it.

What happened that day, I am still unsure of. I had trained for weeks and hoped to achieve a personal goal time. I felt prepared, but failed. My mind said yes, but my body said no.

Even though it didn’t feel like it at the moment, I realize that I did achieve what I set out to do-run the mile race. It just did not happen the way I expected it to. Did I fail? No. I finished after collapsing. I competed against myself that day- and WON!

Lessons were learned that I have not forgotten.

~ No matter how prepared you are, sometimes things do not go as planned. Readjust your expectations for the moment you are in.

~ Trying with all your might at something doesn’t always bring about what you thought it would, but realize that success has many faces.

~ You can do more than you think you can when push comes to shove.

~ Comparing ourselves with others is a dangerous and often destructive tool. It strips us of being able to recognize the value of our own accomplishments.

~ If you run, make sure you sign up for the wave of the race where all the other 30-something, moms (with hip diseases) are so you are in the company of 9-12 minute milers instead of sub 4-ers!