I'm not a natural runner, but my husband is, as are a lot of our friends. While in labor with my last baby, I was bouncing on an exercise ball and reading Natural Born Hero by Christopher McDougall. I decided, in labor, to become a runner.
Not long after our baby was born, Wade and I signed up for a 24 hour relay that would take place in Zion National Park. As soon as my doctor gave me the green light, I began running. It was not pretty. It quickly became clear that I’m not, nor will I ever be, a natural runner. I am a plodder. My pace is slow, but I keep moving forward.
And so I kept plodding along, through that winter and spring. As the date of the run drew nearer, it still was pretty ugly and I was anxious. When we arrived in Zion in June, I was the slowest member on the team. But it didn’t matter. On my first leg I ran, my husband and teammates were there to encourage me and offer water at every mile. And though all of them could probably walk faster than I was running, they all cheered for me like I was an Olympic athlete. As each member of the team finished their leg, we would gather around the transition point to encourage the next runner and holler and yell for the runner arriving. When we saw our friend coming in, tired, sweaty and thirsty, we would begin to celebrate. Some teammates would run out to meet them and help them run up to their finish line. It was such a beautiful picture of our spiritual race and how we are seen by God. He’s there at every transition point, and at our finish lines, cheering wildly for us. He isn’t pleased that we kept a good pace for mile two and three, but disappointed that we tanked at mile four. He’s proud of our sprints and ploddings. He sends friends along the way to offer us refreshment and hope, “You’re almost there!” And when we finish, “Well done!” It was glorious. I had prayed for His help and for Him to be with me while I ran, but I did not expect to see and feel Jesus in such a tangible way on this adventure. He reminded me that He is a good Father who delights in being with His children and has good gifts, hand picked and wrapped just for us.
I'll probably never run through the arches in Zion, on a clear night, thick with stars at 3 a.m. again. It would have never been something on my bucket list of things to experience in this life, and yet, it was the leg assigned to me. Shane and Shane isn't exactly running music, and yet it's what I chose to blast in my ear buds during that long stretch of quiet, black road. Having the songs of David, sung over me while I was surrounded by such majesty, fed my soul and helped keep the fear of being a late night snack to a mountain lion at bay. It was an unexpected gift for me from Jesus. Instead of anxiety and fear, I felt His presence. I felt a little like Jacob, that I had been permitted to see something heavenly, even if it was just a staircase or back window.
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 NLT