For months I have been on a running hiatus. By the end of last fall I had entirely abandoned the exercise on account of worsening health and little hope. Winter passed and I never touched my running shoes. When spring came I didn't even entertain the thought of attempting to take a run or even a snail's paced jog. Some days walking just felt like enough of a task and enough of a victory, too.
By the time this summer arrived I was thoroughly convinced my running days were over and the loss saddened me. Even the sight of posters advertising 5k races depressed me. I used to love running - the wind blowing through my hair, the breath in my lungs keeping time with the steady and strong beat in my heart. I loved feeling power in my tiny little legs and being propelled forward by the sheer will of movement. Running used to ignite in me the joy of overcoming and the perseverance to press on. But when this summer came I was too defeated to even look at my sneakers let alone lace them up and take a run. I surrendered to weakness without even giving strength a try.
Over the first two months of summer the crushing defeat I succumbed to began to seep into my soul. Slowly the hopelessness of my sneakerless feet took root in my spirit and let defeat have control. I willingly let weakness have the final say.
But, thank God, He wouldn't. God wouldn't let the story of my running days end in defeat. My Overcoming, Persevering, All-Powerful God wouldn't allow my jogging days to be conquered by hopelessness. He refused to give up on my frail spirit and saw past my frail legs. God, in all of His grace and unmerited mercy, gave me back my run.
It started out slowly and for the first half of a mile my breathing was terribly labored. I felt every pounding of the pavement against my right foot's tender bunion. The muscles in my left leg began to give a little tug and for a moment I worried that I'd have to give up but a little voice inside told me to keep going. I obeyed the voice and pushed through the pain.
As I looked up ahead I saw a hill coming into view and my heart sank. I had agreed to keep running through the pain but could I carry the pain up the hill? Defeat began to taunt my spirit and my pace slowed ever so slightly but then that little voice returned. Run faster. It seemed like the very opposite of the rational. Running faster and harder felt nearly impossible but the voice sounded confident and sure and so I obeyed. I surrendered to the commands of the little small voice and began to pick up my pace. I lifted my knees a bit higher and let my stride travel further with each step forward.
As I moved onward and up the hill my breathing deepened and became steadier. The run actually became easier. I felt stronger. I felt alive!
When I made it to the top of the hill sweat was pouring down my brow and a smile was written across my face. I didn't think the moment could be any more perfect until I saw what came next. A descent. On the other side of the hill, visible only form the peak of my own personal mountain, was a blissful journey back down.
The rest of my run was so easy and effortless that it felt like flying. I glided down the hill and finished my run invigorated with endorphins and the spirit of an over-comer.
I almost didn't take that run and I nearly quit before the hill but God was faithful. He always is. When I lace up my sneakers with faith and stride forward in Christ's strength, God always shows up to see me through to the end. No matter how steep the hill, tired my legs or defeated my heart, with God breathing life into my lungs and hope into my heart I can stride forward knowing that I will win the race.