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But at some point I stopped running and I don't remember when or why. I just know that I stopped for several years until I picked it up again in the later years of college. Again I ran, just me, back in my quiet place with the rolling hills and the different gravel roads and new cows and new dogs to chase me. And then the pain in my knees and I gave it up for years, trying to pick it up again every now and then but quitting in defeat. Telling myself I didn't need it anyway, walking was just fine and only crazy people ran. But deep inside I was jealous. And I missed it.
I started running again this summer. Crazy, really, that at my highest weight ever somehow I finally managed to run without pain in my knees. I looked up the Couch to 5k plan, loaded some music on my mp3 player and off I went. Weeks of work and sweat and thinking I must be crazy, but by Halloween I ran a 5k. And by 'run' I mean propelled my body forward in a manner slightly faster than a walk, but just barely. I took comfort in the John Bingham quote, "If you run, you are a runner."
This week I'm starting over. Partly because between various illnesses I've gotten lax over the last two months. But also because I'm tired of putzing along at my near-walk pace and hearing everyone else talk about their 9, 10, or 11 minute miles. I want to be faster, and the best way I can think of to do that is to go back to the basics, back to what helped me to run again in the first place. Back to the Couch to 5k, only faster.
Sometimes I think my faith is a lot like running. (Well, Paul did compare it to a race, after all.) I'm going along and it's all good and just me and God and the open road. Bliss. And then life gets in the way and it kind of fizzles out and I remember the faith that I USED to have but it just isn't the same. Maybe it gets renewed sometimes, and maybe it gets knocked around a little and I get bruised and tired and don't really know quite why I'm sticking to these beliefs. Sometimes it hurts and I look at those heroes of the faith and decide that I'm happy not paying that price because maybe they are just a little bit crazy. But deep inside I'm jealous that they are so sure. Deep inside I miss it.
And so I pick myself up off the couch and I go back to the beginning. I strip away all of the extra stuff that gets tangled in my brain and I go back to the basics. Back to "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24) Back to "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith." (Ephesians 2:8) Each time I go back I'm stronger. Each time I go back I learn a little bit more. Each time I go back I race just a little bit better.
Sometimes it's good to start over.
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