I am a runner. I don’t talk much here about worldly things other than Christ, but running became a big part of my life when I was searching for the meaning of life. I had always been active as a child- dance, cheerleading and working at a sports camp over the summer, but never cared much for running. As I found myself drowning, knee-deep in motherhood, losing myself, losing my “religion,” I saw something that peaked my interest. A friend from high school had posted about her new-found love of running, and her words sounded more like a Tibetan mountain than they did an arduous task. I immediately reached out to her in the depths of my despair, and she agreed to meet me for lunch.
In the meantime, I had begun running with a friend of mine from work. I hated it. I was about six months postpartum and hating life. We would run than walk and run again. We’d choose markers. Let’s just get to that stop sign. Let’s just get to the end of that street. It hurt but I knew I was being led to do it. And I was looking forward to hearing what my friend had to say.
She handed me over a bunch of running magazines, told me about her journey and relayed to me that “running” had pretty much saved her life. She talked about it as if talking about the most glorious friend. I hung on every word. I was excited to find what she had found, and looked forward to the day when I too could love something so much.
Inspired by her example, I began to run on my own. I would run on the weekends- sometimes alone; but feeling guilty, I eventually bought a running stroller and would run with one of my babies. The time I spent pushing the stroller as I ran was wonderful, but the time I spent alone was open road. I ran a secular blog back then called “Mary F. Poppins,” (yes you know what the “F” stood for) which delved into the worldly darkness that I was mired in. Its words were cryptic, written for the wrong reasons, and led me down a dark path that seemed to have no end. But I had running, and that was light. And I know now that God was certainly on all of those solitary runs with me…
I eventually signed up for my first 5 k, did several of those, grew bored although placing many times in my age group and set my eyes on the prize- a half marathon. There was something inside of me that just had to do it. My training was grounds for a lot of time on my own, lots of early mornings and a break from the darkness in life. It was the only time I felt free- from the burdens of life, from three babies and from myself. I completed my first half marathon and spent three hours nursing my pained legs, but I had accomplished what I set out for. I soon after planned on running my second half marathon.
It was after that second half marathon that the “finish” did not seem so great. I was indeed proud of myself that I had finished, had realized a “spiritual” experience and this time no pain on the back-end. I didn’t feel the need to run a marathon, which is the natural progression for most who have conquered the half marathon. I in fact went backwards in mileage- having my eye on the seven mile bridge run in the Keys. By the time I ran that race over God’s water, I was a believer.
I haven’t run outside in quite some time. I have taken to a new “HIIT” workout (high intensity interval training) that keeps me indoors and has more physical benefits, confusing the muscles and gasping for air on the high points. I recently began to loathe the monotony of this workout and longed for my time outside. If I could just get back outside I thought, that’s where I need to be.
So I woke up and decided that come what may, I was going for a run. It seemed glorious in my head. I remembered all of those times that I was given ideas for writing projects and how running had really been such a big part of my conversion, a metaphor almost. I was looking forward to running my race with endurance, and having once again, an open and honest conversation with God. Surely I would find him there.
I was a bit nervous as I started down the road, I hadn’t run since May, and it is still so hot here in South Florida. No music was on the agenda today, just open road, my run -keeper to tell me my mile markers and God. It started out a little rocky, somewhat familiar, I was glad for the open air. It shouldn’t be problematic I thought to myself, I am in great shape and I’ve done this a million times before. Surely this is where God wants me.
It wasn’t long into the run that I started gasping for air, my legs ached and the magic that was once there was now gone. The path was familiar but I was different. I didn’t need to be outside to gain physical or spiritual benefit, it almost felt like I was walking backwards.
My breath was loud but the Holy Spirit was too. Why was I still searching on the outside for what I had already found on the inside.? My search for the truth had landed me smack dab center inside of the Catholic church. I was on the inside now, I knew where I belonged.
So many of us question where we should be, thinking God could never have us on the inside, right where we are. Many of us take long journeys to find ourselves, to find the truth only to realize that the truth was home. There is a great quote about that which implies that we search for truth in two ways, one that takes us on long journeys just to end up back “home” or simply remaining where we are, realizing that we are “home.” For me I have had to leave home to find the truth, but ultimately have ended up exactly where I started. I don’t call that failure, I call it my life’s work.
Ultimately I have found that God’s will is not in specifics, it is a universal call to love, to be where we are wherever we are, to be present in our present, to keep searching until we find him, wherever that may be. It is beyond jobs, or vocations or places. It is about the will of the soul to stop at nothing to find the truth about why we were created and what our purpose is here.
The run this morning helped to bring me that needed, and laborious reminder. I am where I am supposed to be. I have found the truth. I know where I belong.