Not About Me
Set out for an intended seven yesterday, watching distant flashes of lightning as I did so. I figured it was heat lightning–all the flashes were contained within one distant cloud formation, and I’d checked the radar before I left and there was only one storm in our vicinity, to our south, and it didn’t look like it would reach us before I was done with my run.
So out I went for seven. But before I got very far I heard thunder to accompany the lightning–a feature that doesn’t usually come with heat lightning–and I started to make alternate plans, just in case. I figured I could turn around at the 2-mile point and put in four, then do 4 today, when I intended to take a day off, and still be okay for a long run Saturday. Well, at about the 1.5 mark, it started to sprinkle on me, just a light misty rain, as if to confirm that turning around would indeed be best.
I waited until Garmie trilled at me and turned tail, heading home, but the rain stopped almost immediately, never having been more than a gentle sprinkle. The lightning subsided; the storm moved away. When I passed the street that would take me home, therefore, I thought I’d put in another mile out, closing in on six miles total, and then ended up adding a little more mileage and finishing out my seven for the day. Today, therefore, ended up being a rest day after all. I intend to put in a double-digit run tomorrow, at a slow pace.
But today I wanted to reflect on what I was praying through as I was running those seven miles. You know, right after the marathon, even though I knew how tired I was when I reached the taper, which in some ways felt like its own finish line, I almost didn’t want to take any recovery time. I like to think I’m not stupid, but two weeks after the marathon, I was on track to run about 25 miles–back at 50% of my highest training mileage.
I don’t want to get my theology twisted and tell you that I think God sent the soccer-playing dynamo to kick my toenail off. I don’t put my faith in a God that perverse. But I will tell you that he used the event to bench me and earn me some rest–following that injury, though the podiatrist told me he thought I’d be running again in about a week, I was actually “out of my shoes,” as Lindsay says, for twelve days. It was probably just the rest I needed.
Now, here I am, probably complaining a little more than I need to about a knee that’s been giving me trouble almost since I started running. And what I write here doesn’t begin to reflect how much mental space I’m giving it while I’m not writing here–considering changing shoes, doing new exercises, chewing over my running schedule with the Boss until he wants to hand me my shoes and say, “Run or don’t run, just shut up!”
He hasn’t said that yet.
I find this amazing because of his situation. You see, the Boss would give anything to be able to debate whether to go out and practice his sport of choice. Two years ago, while out hitting with his tennis partner, the Boss discovered he could not see the tennis ball very well. After extensive testing, he received a confirmed diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. At the time we were told that he would probably eventually receive some of his sight back, but he has not.
Please don’t misunderstand me. We’re exceedingly grateful for our blessings–many MS sufferers lose mobility as the disease attacks the spinal cord; in the Boss’s case, the attack has been localized to the optic nerve. The only thing he’s lost is the ability to see small objects flying towards him at high speeds. Maybe he’d never have noticed if he wasn’t a tennis player; I don’t know.
But he is a tennis player; he must miss his sport. Heck, I miss mine when I’m on the bench for three days! But my better half–and maybe sharing this will you will give you an inkling of why it is my privilege to refer to this man as the Boss, though we actually share the workload around here in a very balanced, modern way–does not complain about his diagnosis. He’s purchased tennis racquets for all three of his family members and takes us hitting regularly, sharing his sport with us and coaching all three of us to become better players, though he will never play competitively again. This is a man who went to college on a scholarship and, until his diagnosis, played on a fairly competitive recreational team.
So, you see, I’m reminded that God’s grace is not about me! When I’m benched, when I’m disciplined, when I’m taught something about character and grace and endurance–not in sport but in life and faith–it’s about something much bigger than me.
And in the end, I pray I always remember, while I want to be a great runner, I want to be a great Christ follower more than that.
While I want to get a medal at my next race, my true goal is to earn a crown that will never tarnish.
And while I would love to hear the crowds roaring as I come to the finish in–dare I hope it–1:48–more than that, I want to hear the quiet voice of my Lord saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
God, give me an eternal perspective–yes, even on my knees!
*Interestingly, when I got home and got the paper, the lead article in our local section was about a man who was struck by lightning as he loaded up his truck–in my neighborhood. So I felt vindicated by my original plan of turning around if the storm got closer. Take lightning seriously, running friends.