I have returned to running after having been sick in early April, and then having to take a month off to fully recover. As I have stated previously, I try to make my running more than a physical experience, but also one where I can communicate with God as well. For me, I saw running as a form of worship – a way to worship God in what at times can be seen as a rather unconventional way. In my opinion, I was able to worship God simply through running, as given what I have been through in college – the number of lung infections, pneumonia and bronchitis – running is worship enough. I must preface this with the statement that I don’t think my various illnesses are the result of countless tests and trials from God; rather, I think they just happened, but that God looked after me during them and allowed me to rise above them and be stronger for it.
Another hurdle I’m attempting to tackle at the moment is the change of scenery. Ordinarily, my way to worship God through running came in the form of some of the most beautiful cross country trails in the world. (Second, of course to the hiking trails in Northern California…there is no topping those spectacles…) Out there on the trails, it was very quiet, very solitary. I could be alone with just God and my thoughts, pounding out my problems, rejoicing in my successes and small victories, without having to worry about dodging traffic. So, now that I am home and away from the beautiful trails of Western Massachusetts, I am forced to find a new environment in which to worship God. And obviously, there aren’t the same breathtaking views and wild, muddy, puddled and winding wilderness trails that I have become accustomed to, so the search is on.
So what does a wild former city-slicker like me do in this case? Well, for starters, I signed up for a 5K and a 25K down in New Jersey to inspire me to continue running. In the past, I haven’t been that great at sticking to workout plans (sorry coaches…); I often find them boring and repetitive, and I’ll give up before I even get into the interesting parts. But this time has to be different. I have now graduated from college, and there aren’t any coaches telling me to workout “for the sake of the team” or whatever. This time, the only person I’ll be working out “for the sake of” is myself. It is the way I can chat with God outside of the church, where at times, I feel pressured (or rather feel as though my voice won’t be heard otherwise) to pray the correct ways, sit up straight, uncross my legs, fold my hands, to no end. While I understand that the church has its traditional ways of doing things, I feel that sometimes, my voice is best heard when it is allowed to run wild and free of such constraints as “the right ways” to pray, sit, etc. To bring things back to the beginning, this is why I have started to run again. I figure that since I am going to seminary, I’m going to need all the help I can get from God before I go so that when I get there, I will be ready, strong and able to learn the important information that will help me help and teach others.
So I’ll continue to run. Eventually the aches and pains of getting back into shape will go away, and I’ll be able to return to the same state of physical fitness that I was before I got sick. Once my mind is quiet, once the bodily noises are silenced, I will be able to hear the voice of God again, talking to me, giving me words of encouragement and wisdom that will make me stronger and more capable!
Someone once asked me, “why do you talk to God when you run? Doesn’t God only speak to people when they are praying in church? How do his hands reach outside the walls of a church?” I wanted to laugh, but in the end, I could only smile. I was always raised to believe that God is everything and everywhere; He is the embodiment of every living creature, plant, animal, human. Therefore, God is present in every interaction I have with my environment, dog, parents, friends, family, etc.
This is no different from when I run. When I run, I am able to see the grandeur, the sheer magnitude and beauty that is God’s creation here on Earth. I am able to praise Him for creating the things that I love most, and pray for those who aren’t able to see what I have been blessed enough to see. When I run, I am at my most basic form – I am away from my cell phone, computer, TV, etc, and therefore, undistracted. I am able to hear only God, only what comes to me in nature, not what comes from my iPhone, MacBook, or TV. Everything is pure and the way that God intended it to be (minus having to dodge high-priced SUVs and soccer moms in BMWs and Mercedes Wagons…I am not sure that God intended for there to be road rage and aggressive driving…Ha!), the sounds of birds singing, my body doing what it was created for.
Ultimately, I run because it is what my body was created to do – it is a way for me to praise God for delivering me from the few challenges I have faced over the last four years. Through the simple act of running, I am able to thank God for standing by me, for helping me to get stronger and healthier than I ever was before. I am able to share with God what is nagging at me, what I am excited about, and what I need guidance about. When I run, God hears me, and more importantly, I am able to hear God more clearly than anywhere else (ok, besides the mountains and valleys of Northern California, but that is for another day entirely…).
I signed up for two road races – a 5K in July, and a 25K in October. I’m hoping to pick up a few more running events in the meantime, and I’m sure a few will become available in between. I have never run a 25K before – that is 15.5 miles, for those of you (like me about an hour ago…) who aren’t easily able to calculate the conversion between kilometers and miles. The longest distance I’ve ever run was like 7 miles, so I’m doubling my longest milage ever. BIG STEP FOR ME! But I think that during this time, not only will I be challenging the limits of my body, but also I’ll be able to spend more time running, thereby spending more time with God in the process!
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