Yesterday I had what I would consider to be a pretty pathetic run. As I hit the two-mile mark, my insides felt like they’d turned inside out. I stopped in the middle of the path doubled over. As the wave of nausea passed, I turned around and started walking back toward home. I walked for three-quarter mile and then did a slow jog the remainder of the four miles. I felt discouraged, thinking about another lousy run I had last week in which I was two minutes off my normal pace.
As I considered this second bad run in one week’s time, the thought occurred to me that I could choose to never run again. I hate to admit it, but it doesn’t take much for me to give up.
So yesterday, when the going got tough, I didn’t think about my long history of running or how I just celebrated the completion of a goal to run 500 miles in one year. Nope, met with intestinal cramps, my immediate thought was, “You can stop now and never do this again.”
This posture toward running made me think of my journey with faith. In early 2013, I walked into my boss’ office and tried to quit. I was three years into infertility and five years into full-time ministry. My faith, a daily necessity of my job, was wavering. And I was tired of being a fake.
“I have to tell you something,” I said, “And after I do, you may need to fire me.”
At the time of the conversation, I didn’t know anyone who’d wrestled with infertility. In fact, it felt like the opposite. It seemed like everyone I knew was getting pregnant. I heard a lot of, “Oops!” and, “We weren’t even trying!” And even a couple, “We didn’t mean for this to happen.”
At this point, loneliness had ripped me apart. I’d yet to talk to anyone who understood. It felt like everyone was full of advice and stories of people they knew who’d beaten the odds.
I felt unseen. Unheard. And completely helpless.
So I explained to my boss how I was feeling. I talked about how my heart hurt and how as my disappointment with circumstances waxed, my trust in God waned. I felt like a hypocrite. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to lead people in a church setting, meanwhile doubting the existence of God.
But instead of firing me, he said something like, “It sucks you’ve been through this, but I’m not going to fire you for asking God what he’s up to in your life.”
This was the first time I remember having permission to have doubts, fears, and questions about God’s plans not only for me but the world at large. In that moment, I knew it was okay to consider quitting my faith without actually needing to quit.
Then in 2017, I met Landon. From the moment I saw my sweet little blanket burrito of a baby through the hospital nursery window, I knew there was a God. Beyond my faith in God being restored, I immediately remembered that the God I believe in is personal and deeply invested in my story.
I think it’s programmed in my head that having your faith restored as a result of a good thing isn’t okay. We all applaud Horatio Spafford for writing “It Is Well With my Soul” in the wake of losing his entire family in a tragedy. That’s the stuff sermon illustrations are made of.
Sometimes in the church we communicate it’s admirable to come back to God as a result of cancer, divorce, or another hardship.
But it feels kind of cliché—and maybe a little weak—to see your newborn baby and sense the presence of God.
Writing all of this down has actually been something I’ve waited a long time to do. I wanted to know that my newfound closeness to God would stick and wasn’t just the euphoria of Landon’s preciousness.
To be honest, sometimes I get scared. Brené Brown talks about foreboding joy, the fear that the joy we feel can’t last. This is often a reality for me. In the face of so much happiness, my mind flashes to the very worst. And I wonder, “If I lost Landon or our happiness was compromised, who would I become?”
Yesterday’s run reminded me of the person I was during this season of waiting.
I think of all the moments I deemed myself unfit for what lay ahead. When everything in me screamed to just stop. But then I remember the signs pointing to the promise of the future.
With running, it’s the bib waiting in my desk drawer for July 4, when I’ll pin it to my shirt for the Peachtree Road Race. And how yesterday, hours before my awful run, a friend texted to let me know she got us a hotel room for the night before a half marathon in October. And the big one, the marathon I’ve already paid a large amount of money to run next March.
It seems as though my entire life is wrapped up in running and I know I’m committed for at least a little longer. Which really is a good thing because I know deep down that I love to run. I’ve seen over and over again that my best processing happens on the ground and without a doubt my mental health can’t afford to give up the miles.
These are the things I can’t lose just because I’m discouraged.
My journey forward is illusory yet solid in its own way. Like a path I have no choice but to follow.
I now know I’ll make it. Because I have in the past and I’ve promised to again in the future.