October 29, 2013

A Marathon Story

I could walk 13.1 miles, I thought.

If I could walk twice a week and have one big walk on the weekends, I could do this, I said.

It started off with determination.  With a goal and a purpose and a drive. 

Some dear friends of ours from church are in the process of adopting a baby.  A marathon in our area called the Chosen Marathon helps families raise support and funds that they need for the adoption process.  When I first heard about it, I wanted to be a part of that story.  I wanted to be a part of the marathon, even if I was a walker.

But the early weeks after I made this decision, I seemed to face one obstacle after another.  Todd having to work weekends.  Rainy weather.  And then battling lies and facing a struggle with a kind of intensity that I haven't in quite some time.  The last several weeks especially, I've been almost drowning in my shame.  I had said I was going to do this.  Not only was I not even "training" but I was struggling with my body and with food in ways that I haven't in ages.

Some of my issues came to a head last Wednesday night in a room with a few of my closest girlfriends.  I fell apart and had a mini-meltdown and colorfully voiced my anger over my struggle.  Wondering why I couldn't just figure this out.  And granted, I have made huge steps of progress, but my body has never been reflective of those changes.  I voiced how ashamed I felt of myself - for wanting to be a part of the marathon and dropping out so-to-speak.  Not finishing what I started.  I was convinced I had let down my friend that I pledged to support.  I knew that even if I wanted to, my body was in no shape to walk 13.1 miles and it would be unkind to do that to myself.

Saturday morning came around - the day of the marathon.  I awoke with my friends on my mind, especially those I knew who were running.  My heart ached and I sat there in a pit of shoulda-coulda-woulda's.  Wishing I could go back and give my few months ago self a pep-talk or a kick in the pants.  And then I sat there and cried for another place, another thing, another piece of life to be lived that was stolen from me by the accusing, shame-dealing serpent himself.  I started beating myself up for not being strong enough to conquer my opposition - the thoughts and feelings and lies that came after I decided something as huge as a half-marathon.

But then I decided that enough had been taken from me.  And instead of sitting in my living room all morning wearing a heavy coat of shame, I took it off, threw it outside, and me and my family got ready and headed out to cheer on our friends.  I went to show my face, my support, my love for people who are dear to me.
When we arrived and Laura saw us in the distance, her hands flew up in the air as she was thrilled to see us.  Even though I didn't run, I was there - I was there for her and her husband and her little boy and the little one that God is preparing for them.  And to her, it seemed, that was what mattered most.  Having my heart.

I waited on the sidelines.  I clapped and cheered as I watched strangers cross the finish line - some with tears streaming down their faces.  This marathon especially is an emotional one.  Some are running for the babies they are waiting for.  Some are running for the babies they've welcomed into their home - they finish the race with their little ones hands in theirs as they cross the finish line.  Some are running because they were adopted themselves.  And some, many, are running to support others and to put love in action.  The foot on pavement, sweaty kind of love.

Along with our friends who are adopting, some of our dearest friends had trained for the race.  They are the kind of friends that DO love.  The foot on pavement, sweaty kind of love is their specialty.  As I waited for Nate and Shelly to turn the last corner, I felt myself rising up with emotion.  Tears started streaming down my face when I saw them from a distance, quickly approaching the end.  And I'm not really sure why I was crying.
Maybe it was because I was full of sorrow and regret, wishing that it would be me approaching the finish line too.  That I could have been stronger or more healed or in a place where I could have stuck with my plan.  Maybe it was because I knew how hard Nate and Shelly had worked and I was excited to see them complete the race.  Or maybe it was because something about seeing this marathon - this running with endurance, pressing forward toward the goal thing, like Paul refers to in Philippians, playing out in real life - it got to me.  I knew in those moments that I wanted to be in the race.  I wanted to be pressing on towards the goal, not just sitting on the sidelines. It reminded me of how much of my life was spent living that way in the past and how I don't want that to be how I live now.

I cried for myself, for my struggles, where the enemy seems to have the upper hand.  I cried for the parts that have been healed and carefully touched by God, as this Jennifer didn't stay home.  She showed up.

And then I hugged the necks of our friends who finished.  We treated them to lunch.  We celebrated their feat and sat over a meal looking to our futures with hope about what God might have in store - about our families, our bodies, and the different places we struggle.  We talked about how God must feel as watches us run and waits for us at the finish line.

Tonight, my heart is tender as I think about the stories God is writing.  The little one He is preparing for Laura and her family.  How God is using Nate and Shelly's way of doing love to touch and change lives.  How He is still with me, ever-present in my struggle, even at the times I feel He has left me alone in it.  We all wait, we all run, we all press on.

And this time next year, my hope is to cross that finish-line.

Clear eyes.  Full hearts.  Can't lose.


  1. Vulnerable, honest, inspiring, beautiful.

  2. You just inspired me to register for the full marathon in Pgh next year! I ran th3 half this year and was not going to do it....your post changed my mind!!! Thanks