So, I still feel like I need to pinch myself when I say this out loud… but I ran a half marathon a little over a month ago. It doesn’t seem possible that first, it was over a month ago. (Who else feels like this year is just flying?) But more importantly, that I ran that many miles. 13.1 to be exact. You see, last summer I got this crazy idea to run Disney’s Princess half marathon the following February. I’m not much of a runner and it’s always been kind of a bucket list thing to be able to say I’ve completed a half marathon – someday. But when I saw that the upcoming Princess half was going to fall on the date of the 4th anniversary of B’s death, I knew I had to run it. I had this vision of creating some beauty on what can seem from an earthly perspective to be a very hard day, and I wanted to defy my odds and bring God glory for helping me accomplish something I would never be able to do on my own.
So I called my friend Desiree, because she’s amazing and someone I can share pretty much all my crazy ideas with and know she will listen. And she decided to do it with me! In the seven months to follow, we both set aside hours on end for training time, encouraging each other and – let’s be honest- whining some to each other too. (That much running is tough!) At last it was race day, and after what felt like three hours of sleep, we were off to the start line.
Now to tell you this race was incredible doesn’t even seem to scratch the surface of all that this race meant for me. The Lord taught me so many lessons both throughout my training and during the actual race. Receiving that medal meant so much more to me than just completing the race, because it showed me yet again that I can do hard things, but only through His strength in me. But the biggest lesson I took away that day was the reminder of weights.
You see, we didn’t know how cold it would be at 5:00 a.m. when we would be standing around waiting for our corral to get the start signal. So I went out beforehand and bought some cheap cold weather clothes on clearance that I could toss later in the race, which would all go to a homeless shelter. (How cool is that?) I was so glad I had that warm jacket as I began running, but as the sun began to rise and the weather got a little warmer, I started to struggle with what to do with my jacket. Because apparently I had grown a little too attached to it. It was a really cute running jacket, and I got it for quite the steal. And right then, silly old me did not want to give up that jacket.
I know now how ridiculous that is, looking back on it. It’s just a jacket. But in the moment, I was conflicted until this one phrase from Scripture popped into my mind: “lay aside every weight…” I couldn’t even remember the whole passage right then with my mind and body fixed on running, but I knew the context was a race and was written to tell believers to focus on finishing their race well. And I knew then that I was being so silly. If I was starting to sweat with this jacket on at mile 4, how was I going to feel at mile 8? And even if I took off the jacket and tied it around me for half of the race, how much harder would it be for me to run as I got tired with “extras” strapped onto me?
So I chose to throw it off, and as I ran past the place where I left that jacket on the side of the road, I thought of so much in life that weighs us down. There are just plain hardships that we face that can’t be helped, because we are living in a fallen world that groans for the Creator to restore its original beauty and sinlessness. But there are also the “weights” that we needlessly put on ourselves – of worry, anxiety over the future, fear of unknowns, and the results of focusing too much on what we can’t control and yet so often try to. They leave us living with an overall heaviness and the inability to breathe easily. We aren’t able to remember that each day we have to live is a gift given to us by our Heavenly Father who loves us, and is writing a story more beautiful than we could ever comprehend.
I don’t know why it took a silly old jacket to remind me of how much easier life is when I let my Father carry me through it, instead of strapping unnecessary weights and burdens to myself that will only make life more difficult. But I do know that my race that day was much easier when I continued running it without my cute, but bulky, cold weather accessories.
And as I reached the finish line, I celebrated, knowing that I did my very best. Which is what I want to be able to say about the way I ran this much lengthier race called life too. Yes, there will always be obstacles and hardships. There will be aches and pains and times when I can’t stop crying and when I don’t feel like taking another step. But I will. Because my eyes are on Jesus, and He’s shown through the Cross that there’s victory in the end. And because, when the needless weights aren’t on me, I’m free to run as hard and as fast as I can for the finish line. That, I learned firsthand last month, is a very exhilarating feeling.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…” -Hebrews 12:1-2a