This morning I left the house at 6 a.m. for a morning run. It rained during the night, and the fresh scent still hung in the air. I love a good rain out west.
I walked the length of our street, then began jogging south. How far would I go today? Two miles? Two and a half? I decided to go a slightly different route and turned west on a street I haven't run on before. Unbeknownst to me, this 1/2 mile stretch includes a Hill of Death. The stop sign at the top of the hill seemed to keep moving backward with every step I took toward it, mocking my efforts to reach the top so I could turn north and catch my breath on level ground. But the laws of physics didn't change, and I eventually conquered the Hill. Thank goodness the hard part of my route was at the beginning of this venture, or I probably would have quit!
The rest of my run was normal. I kept a steady pace and enjoyed the feel of the wind on my face and head. Sunlight began to break through the rain clouds that still hovered, lighting the mountains in the east. It was a glorious sight and invigorated me, challenging me to keep at it just a little bit longer.
The first time I went running after my miscarriage, I went 2 1/2 miles. I felt great during and immediately after the exercise, but three hours later I was doubled over with painful cramps, curling in the fetal position on our couch, popping Tylenol and thanking the Lord that my mom was still around to get lunch for the children. I don't know if I would have experienced cramps that painful had I not gone running, but I decided not to chance it. A week passed before I ventured out again, and still I took it easy at a slow 2 miles. Two days later I went 2 1/2 miles.
This morning I told myself I would go at least 2 miles, but as I continued running past the Hill of Death and settled back into a good rhythm, I decided to go for 3. Toward the end of my route, I reflected that physically, I am doing just fine after the traumatic events of just 16 days ago. Emotionally, I still have my moments, and I expect I will for...well, who knows how long, but I'm realizing that the pain doesn't just go away simply because I know God is good. Mentally, I feel I am stronger than I was a few weeks ago, having been through great sadness and finding myself becoming more keenly aware of God's presence, listening to His Word speak to me, and following the Holy Spirit as He leads me.
Mom left a week ago, and our life continues on. We do home school activities every morning, get together with different friends about once a week, attend church events, serve in our places of ministry, eat, drink, sleep, laugh, and love. My routine, my beliefs, my values--those are the same. It's my heart and mind that are different. I now understand more fully the meaning of grief and sadness, the gut-wrenching pain of losing someone dear, a precious, God-created life. At the same time, I can also more fully appreciate God's hand in every aspect of my life. I have learned that it's not enough to sing glib praise songs, to say I believe God has a plan for me and those I love. What truly matters is that God is God, worthy of praise whether I feel like praising Him or not. He deserves my praise--He deserved it before I even knew Him, simply because of Who He is. Even if He did absolutely nothing for me, He is still worthy to be praised.
This is something that I have a hard time even putting into words, this lesson I've been learning about who I am and, more importantly, who God is and how I can relate to Him. Salvation was a choice I made when I was 5 years old. I knew and understood I was a sinner, and nothing I could do would get me to heaven. I chose Christ, chose to claim His work on the cross and the forgiveness and mercy He freely offered. Now, 25+ years later, I'm still making choices. I'll always be His child, but there are and will be times when I choose not to act like it. Today, only by God's grace, my heart chooses to praise the Lord simply because He is God. I don't know if I would have been able to do that had we lost Charis 6 years ago when I was 8 1/2 weeks pregnant with her. I'm thankful God didn't test me then, because quite honestly, I think I would have failed a test like that. I'm thankful that God continues to grow me and teach me, no matter where I am, so that He can bring me to a grueling trial, allow me to suffer pain, and then bring me to the other side of it, still rejoicing in Him, giving thanks to Him in ALL circumstances.
And so I keep running, because life is not a sprint--it's a marathon. Though I may face a Hill of Death, a trial that tempts me to get off track, to quit, or to turn around and run back down the hill, by God's grace I will put one foot in front of the other, knowing that I do what I do "to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly" (1 Corinthians 9:25b-26). No, I intend to "run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Cor. 9:24b).