Three years ago if you had told me that running 15.6 miles would change my life, I would have replied, “You mean end my life?” I couldn’t run 2 miles nor did I want to. But this past Saturday, I’m glad I ran those 15.6 miles, even though I was sick.
I fought a terrible cough and congestion for a week, but woke up for Saturday’s race feeling good. After three miles my body got into the rhythm. Suddenly, even though it was a cool, damp 50 degree day, it felt like someone lit my face on fire. I told my running BFF Jen that I needed to slow down. At the next two aid stations, desperate to cool down, I threw cups of cold water in my face. I figured I had a low grade fever.
Thankfully, we turned a corner at mile 7 and a slight breeze greeted us. I thanked God as my body slowly cooled down. But by then, I had exhausted my energy reserves.
At mile ten I accepted my predicament and realized if I was going to cross the finish line I needed to really listen to my body for the next 5 miles. So I released Jen.
“You go on ahead. I need to take my time today.”
She looked at me, concerned, “Are you sure? I feel so bad leaving you. We’ve never split up before.”
I tried to reassure her, “I’ll be fine. You go have fun and I’ll see you at the finish line.”
She cast one more concerned glance my way before taking off. I waved her on.
I walked for the next ¾ mile, and my emotions tanked. I was embarrassed to be walking. I considered asking for a black sharpie at the next aid station so I could write on my shirt “I’m sick, that’s why I’m slow.” Then I turned to cursing the course for being too narrow with too many cracks in the road and for being so unfriendly for spectators to cheer us on. Then I blamed the weather for being dreary and damp, and the race organizers for picking cheap t-shirts and medals. My list went on until I was royally grumpy and I would’ve had a good cry if there weren’t so many people around.
Then I looked up at the city skyline and thought of Ked’s Grandpa lying in a hospital bed just a few miles from where I was running. He had a stroke the week before, and in the midst of the biggest battle of his life, he is displaying an attitude of life and love – a living breathing example of Jesus. When he is awake and able, he quotes scripture and sings hymns professing:
“My Jesus, I love thee,
I know though art mine….
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.”
As I put one foot in front of the other contemplating how I’d run these last five miles, I realized that Grandpa was living a life of love in his deepest valley because he had always chosen life. I’ve watched him go through trials before, and his response this time is no different. He’s choosing an attitude of life rather than of death.
The way of death often feels right at first. It felt good to curse the course and the weather and all that was wrong with the day. The way of death seems justified.
The way of death is concerned about only one thing – self. It’s about getting what we want, when we want it and how we want it. It’s the way death has been from the beginning.
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus modeled this way of life so we could enjoy life, to its fullest, no matter what the circumstances. (John 10:10)
I stood at a fork in the road with five miles to go. While this race was not something that really mattered in the span of eternity, I realized that who I was becoming did matter. And the attitude I chose to run these last five painful miles with – whether of life or of death – would ultimately be a force that shaped who I would be and how I would choose in future situations.
Part 2 tomorrow…