trail at the park

The morning sun had not shown its face as I rolled over denying in my mind what I knew to be true.  It was time to get up. I pressed snooze more than once but the alarm clock continued to shout I was eventually going to have to face this day.  I was so comfortable all snuggled up and cozy, I didn’t want to leave the warm cocoon my blankets had become.   Hadn’t I just climbed in bed a few minutes ago, at least that’s how it felt to my weary body?

Reluctantly I threw back the covers and shifted my feet around to touch the floor, slowly I rose and began to get dressed in the lamplight.  Many of you know I signed up for a half marathon early next year and these are the very unglamorous days of training.  The LAST thing I wanted to do right then was run a couple of miles, but I told myself I didn’t have a choice.

I’d made a commitment.

I drove to our little park with my headlights on as it was still dark this early in the morning.  The whole two miles it took to drive there I gave myself a pep talk.  “You’ll be glad you did this.”  “All of this training will pay off in the end.”  “Don’t give up!” and “You can get yourself a treat at McDonald’s when it’s over.”  I know, I’m pathetic, but those yogurt parfaits are my downfall.  Once I arrived I stood for a while and just looked at the asphalt trail in front of me.   I wanted to climb back in my car and drive home to the comfort of my bed and a warm cup of coffee. 

But, I knew I had to put the miles in to get the results I wanted.

So, slowly, but determinedly, I started to put one foot in front of the other.  I wish I could tell you I suddenly felt a wave of energy come over me and the next few minutes flew by as I flew around the park trail. But, that would be untrue.  At first I couldn’t catch my breath and I thought I might surely fall out right there, but who would have seen me in the dim hours of the morning.  No, I better push through.  Then it was my legs, my right one to be exact.  My ankle hurt and then my calf felt weak. Goodness, I had many reasons to stop and retreat back to the comfort of home.

But something way down deep inside reminded me of the goals I’d set, with every step I was getting stronger.

So further I pressed.

To any onlooker I’m sure I looked as normal as any middle aged, a little desperate amateur runner could look; but on the inside I was complaining and whining.  About half way into my first lap around the park, the Lord cut into my thinking. You know it’s so inconvenient when He does that, I had a really a good rant going on in my head!  But, nonetheless, there He was, still small voice and all.  He began to move my thoughts to how uncomfortable my life had been as of late.  My mom dying, friend troubles, family adjustments, college kids, college kids (yes, I know I said college kids twice, it deserved a double mention.  If you have kids in college, you’ll understand.) Busy season at work, changes at church, I mean, just everywhere I looked there was hardship or difficulty.  It wasn’t all my own personal difficulty, some of it was in the lives of people I love so it affected me too. 

It was all so uncomfortable.

Slowly, like the sun rising around me, I began to realize something.  I crave comfort.  I really crave it.  I love a warm cup of coffee, a blanket and a good book or a movie.  Those things make me happy.  I love baking chocolate chip cookies and smelling the house up like melted chocolate and butter. I love meaningful conversations that flow easily, I enjoy pumpkin spice candles, lattes, crackly leaves and corn mazes.  And then I realized, my life had very little of those things lately.  I felt tired, pushed and frustrated. It was then I asked the Lord, “Why don’t you let me be comfortable?  Why must life feel prickly instead of smooth? Everybody else is comfortable, why can’t I be?”  Ok, so don’t quit reading right there as you feel totally misunderstood because your life is hard too. Remember, I was pleading my case with the Lord and was pulling out all the stops.

I was in the middle of pleading and again the Lord interrupted my thoughts.  He does that to me so often!  “Where would you be if I allowed comfort all the time?”  I was thinking, “I’d like to find out,” when images of conversations I’d had recently with friends began to pass through my mind.  Meaningful conversations that were deep and relatable because I’d passed through something similar at an earlier time and was able to give a word of encouragement.  How mentally and emotionally stunted would I be if I hadn’t been forced through uncomfortable circumstances to face the dark chasms of my heart where fear, loneliness, and so many other unhealthy emotions live.  What if I’d never felt the pain of debilitating loss?  How could I ever speak of deeper waters if I’d only been in the shallows?  And how could I live a life of depth if I’d only ever known easy?

Maturity is born, developed and refined through hardship.

Sweat dripped down my forehead and landed directly in my eye and I was startled from my thoughts back to my reality.  The sun had partially risen and the dew on the morning grass sparkled against a green blanket that refused to die in the heat of this warm October.  It was beautiful.  And to think, I would’ve missed it had I decided to stay cozy and comfortable in the warmth of my bed.

By the time I finished running I was exhausted, sweaty and appreciating the discomfort.  It reminded me I was growing stronger and better and wiser and hopefully ready to face what comes next.  I have no idea what that will be, but I’m going to view my present circumstances as training to run the race of life. I was suddenly thankful I’d made the decision to stick to my training plan, I not only met a goal but had a powerful spiritual awakening to an important truth as well. 

One step, one lap, one morning run and meditation at a time.

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

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