A few weeks ago, I was leading the worship for a retreat in Nassau County.
While it may seem that I am frequently off on relaxing retreats , I actually am working very hard. The weekends are pretty busy for me. On this retreat, my bedroom was as far from the main conference room as you could get. It was down a very long hallway and around the corner into another hall. Inevitably, I was running back and forth in a hurry between my room, the conference room and the chapel. Because I needed to open the sessions with music, and because I always forgot something I needed, I was literally running. On Friday night, it started off as a dainty pace, in heels. By Saturday morning, I was wearing flip flops, but I still found it hard to get anywhere fast. By Saturday evening I was barefoot and truly jogging down the hall.
That’s when the heard that familiar voice speak to me, “I want you to start running.” Smiling and nodding to the ladies as I flew past them assuring the retreat session was starting on time, I thought, “I am, Lord. I’m running like I always do, from one thing to the next.” But as I answered, I became aware of how my body felt as I jogged down the hall. I noticed that my steps where sure and steady and the anxiety over all I needed to accomplish seemed to fade to the background as my body moved. For me, MS affects my balance on my right side, in particular when I am walking on stairs. When I close my eyes, I can’t steady myself because I have lost some sensation in my right foot. But I noticed that as I jogged, it seemed to wake up my foot in way that walking doesn’t do for me. I wondered if there was something to this request, even while I reminded the Lord that, “I don’t run.”
Monday morning, I woke up with the birds and the puppy (don’t ask), and for a fleeting moment, as I put on my sneakers for my morning walk, I thought about running. However that familiar statement that became my mantra after I stopped playing field hockey in high school; “I don’t run”, was sabotaging any thought of trying. I put the puppy back in the crate for breakfast and set out for morning walk, with adult dogs in tow and rosary in hand.
I love my early morning rosary walks. Contrary to some common misunderstandings, the rosary isn’t focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus. It’s a series of rote prayers, one for each bead, that are designed to lead a person to consider the mysteries of the life of Jesus. Each decade, or ten prayers, is a different mystery to contemplate. I work out my troubles in my daily rosary walk, talking with Jesus and his mom.
This one morning as I started my brisk walk, I felt this desire to run welling up in me. I was feeling some anxiety too and I thought maybe I’d do a little walk and then a little jog. Before I knew it, I was jogging off and on with each decade of the rosary. With each step, I felt more exhilarated and steady on my feet. Each day, I woke up and got excited to run. It helped me to focus my prayer and work out any anxiety that I was feeling.
That was three weeks ago and I have been jogging 5 days a week. This weekend, I decided that I didn’t want to take the weekend off, much to the delight of my two canine jogging partners.
As I run and pray, I have been thinking about endurance. The dictionary describes endurance as the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions. We all need endurance to keep going when life gets tough.
The bible goes so far as to promise that our difficulties can actually produce endurance, which in turn strengthens our character and gives us hope.
“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5)
I know this scripture is true. I have seen it happen in my life and the lives of many other people I know. Like that saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” endurance strengthens us to take the next step. When we take that step, despite the struggle, we become encouraged and hopeful that we can keep moving forward.
Today I signed up for the Jamesport Fire Department’s Sound to Bay 5K run. A few years back, I walked the 10K and came in last. This time I am running and hopefully pushing Johanna in the adaptive stroller (I need permission to do that.)
Each day I run a little farther and a little longer. I have learned that endurance for a 5K race begins with a single step.
On my morning prayer run, I am also building endurance, for the race of my life, one bead at a time.