On Tuesday back in September I had a cross country meet. It's been awhile, but I haven't forgotten the pain it caused me. They have a nice way of reminding me how out of my mind I am thinking running could ever be fun. The meets feel just pretty much like torture. As a teenage girl, I'm prone to exaggerating things. Naturally I'm kind of a drama queen anyway, so yeah. But I am not kidding when I tell you that. I've had some painful experiences in my life where I say, THAT WAS TORTUE. But nothing can quite compare to the way these meets feel.
I'll paint a picture for you while you sit down and breathe normally. Don't ever take sitting down for granted. Don't ever take walking for granted.
So I go to the meet, and my mom was going to meet me there. I didn't have high hopes for how well I would do. First of all, I'm not that good a runner. I like to run for fun. How I just used "run" and "fun" in the same sentence... I don't know. But anyway, I'm not the best runner on my team. Actually I'm probably one of the worst. My goal is just to not come in last! And then when I'm running, I don't even care about that! I just want to not die.
I start walking around with my team and examine the course. I've ran it before, the year before. There is a nice, big, long hill to run. Then maybe fifty loops. Which is an exaggeration. And the heat was so bad. It felt like a hundred degrees. In reality, I think it was around 80. It was very uncomfortable to run in yet not hot enough to cancel the stupid thing!
At first I had a good attitude. I didn't think much of the meet; I thought it'd be fine. Unfortunately, it was more difficult than I thought. When I talked to my mom before the start, she told me she knew God would give me supernatural strength. I had my doubts, but I chose to believe her and reluctantly got ready to enter these twenty some minutes of physical pain.
That's how I'd describe it in one word. Pain.
Everything is fine when you start. For about two minutes maybe, all is well in the world, and then it all goes downhill. Unfortunately, in a literal sense, it actually went uphill. By a lot. It was a stretching hill, and then you become very tired from the start. The rest of the course is pretty easy and flat, but like I said, it was also hot and humid.
Long story short, there's nothing quite like the feeling of your chest being on fire as you gasp for air. There's nothing quite like the feeling of your legs cramping up and becoming so stiff. I always say that I'm going to think about something to distract myself from the pain I feel, but in the actual heat of the moment, it's all I can think about. All I can think about is the next breath I take, the next step I take. I watch myself slowly cover more ground, and there's this war inside of my head with two main thoughts taking center stage: "Keep going, you don't need to walk yet," and "You need to walk now, and maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if you pretended to break your ankle."
It's a battle the entire race. Those are the only two things I can think about besides breathing: running and walking.
When the end finally comes, I really do feel like I'm going to die. My legs are completely numb practically, my chest is burning, my lungs are gasping for air they can't seem to take in fast enough. . . . And, sometimes, I literally even wet my pants a little. True story.
So afterwards my mom comes to get me thankfully because I'm definitely too physically drained to go find her. I usually just plop down on the ground and contemplate dying. When Mom comes over, lucky her, she gets to hear me go into full on drama queen mode as I tell her things like, "I'm going to die," "I can't breathe," "I need help," "I can't walk," and, most frequently, "No, I need to pee right now and I can't make it one more second." Yes, that's an actual comment I made, go run five million miles and then tell me how you feel when you're done.
I couldn't help but think as I was done that I did not want to ever go through that again. I'm sure Mom got pretty exasperated when we walked to the car, and I had to stop every five seconds and grip her for support and state over and over how I CANNOT BREATHE.
Oftentimes, we feel that way in life. Discouraged. Weary. Like we could honestly just die under all the trials we're facing. I also got discouraged because Mom told me God would give me supernatural strength, and I didn't feel like I had any strength. The whole race was one big struggle, and I didn't feel like I'd accomplished anything except survive. I would ask God for strength in the middle of the race, and sometimes I'd have to walk afterwards. And I kept thinking, where was it? Where is it?
I can think that a lot about life, too. The world seems to be crashing down on me, and I wonder where God is and if He's even helping me. I would love to say that when I ran, I ran faster than anyone and never felt tired. But that was not the case. I would love to say that during all of my trials I felt a miraculous sense of peace. That wasn't always the case.
Most of the times, it's the little things. The little things God is doing for me when I think I can't go farther. A subtle reminder He is, in fact, there, and He does care. There are times when, running the race, literally or figuratively in life, sucks. And when it hurts like that, I have to adjust my focus. When I'm running, there's one thing I always keep in my head, one thing I have to keep telling myself: keep running. It will be over soon. This pain is temporary. I have to finish. It will be worth it. And if the feeling of completing a race sounds satisfying, think how much more it will be in heaven.
When I think of a book in the Bible that talks about perseverance, Philippians is one that springs to mind. So I've been reading through it, and I found a verse that says just that.
God has started good works in us, and they will be completed, though it may hurt now. One thing that running does nicely is gets you in great shape really fast. It is worth it. I could spend blog posts going over this book (and it's only four chapters), so right now I'll just give you a few verses Paul wrote, while in prison, sharing Jesus.
We keep our minds set there, to the eternal life that awaits us.
And what do we do in the meantime?
We rejoice at what is to come. We rejoice at how far God has taken us, and we rejoice that He is with us, even amidst all of our pain.
We need to be a light and kind to everyone, modeling Jesus' love for us.
Don't be anxious. About ANYTHING. Keep praying and keep persevering in prayer. And rest in God's peace. And finally, I'm sure we're all familiar with these:
God will give you the strength to run that race, and even if you've lost it all, know that God will be there, and He will help. You can still be content in Him.
Also, from a running perspective, good does come after you run. Here's a little slideshow of what I did after I finished running: enjoyed good food/drinks as a reward. Or I consumed all the calories I just burned off. I PREFER THE FIRST OPTION OKAY.
I don't know how you feel about running, but I'm sure we all have something we put effort into knowing that the reward for that is going to be worth it. Imagine what that is for you, and imagine how happy you get when you receive the reward, when you know your hard work has paid off. Now imagine heaven, which is perfect, beyond whatever that something is for you on earth. It's going to be much, much better. Infinitely better.
Also, I had another meet a week from that one. I was super stressed about it because the previous meet had hurt way beyond what I expected, so I just expected this one to be like that too. But I started getting used to it, and it actually went great despite that course literally being one hill after another. You'd climb one hill, descend down it, and then climb another one. But that one didn't hurt nearly as bad. God is faithful. He knows how much I can take. He knows how much you can take, and He will complete the work He started in you.
So keep running the race. It's going to be worth it.