It is a morning when I don’t have the emotional energy to run. To pound the pavement for an hour or more, pushing myself the way I normally do.
I feel thick with sadness and want only to wrap myself in my warm duvet, return to the safety of my dreams.
But as I curl onto my side, the breaking light of the morning sun stretches through the blinds and warms my cheeks, beckoning me into the day.
And I remember: This is our time. Mine and His.
I make Earl Grey tea and thread fluorescent green shoelaces through raspberry pink runners, fill water bottles high and secure them into my fuel belt, set running watch to zero.
My actions are slow, deliberately delaying the inevitable. If I can just manage 40 minutes, good enough. I don’t want to think. Don’t want to feel. Don’t want to pray.
I want to get it over with.
I slip out of the house quietly, leaving sleeping bodies nuzzled into the warmth of their beds.
As the cool air of morning clings to my bare arms, I walk briskly, noticing the rhythmic chatter of the birds, the pure blue of the cloudless sky, the distant jagged lines of the mountains. I break into a run, feet navigating potholes and grass verges. And I breathe into my sadness.
And for a while I just listen to the inhale and exhale of my breath.
But I know I can’t ignore Him for long. These Sunday morning runs are as much about prayer as they are about exercise. So after a few minutes I ask the question, “Okay God, what are we going to talk about?”
Let’s talk about this place.
I sigh, taking oxygen deep through my nose, into the depths of my lungs, out through my mouth.
I don’t want to go there again. To unravel it all and stare at the sharp fragmented pieces. To ask the same questions, face the same fears and dwell in the open wounds. I’m tired of talking about this place. I just want to run and forget. I want to let my body do the work.
He knows exactly where I am, of course. He knows better than I know myself. This is the arid ground I walk too often. Where the vastness of life and love and loss and despair meld into one huge knot and carry themselves on my shoulders. Where I feel overwhelmed and overrun by emotion.
Be present in the pain.
A warm trickle of sweat slips from my hairline down the side of my cheek. I push harder, settling into a rhythm, forgetting time, allowing myself to sink into my steps. And into my heart.
The pain. The weight of a parched marriage that has nearly ended several times, of the loss of a friend, of walking thin lines between depression and joy. Of building into my purpose, then wondering if that’s really my purpose at all. Thinking too much. Feeling too much.
The pain of not being able to let go. It’s with me when I wake; it’s with me when I sleep.
Let Me heal the wounds.
The wounds. The scars that chafe against my soul. There is comfort in hanging on to them; they are a familiar part of me. They remind me that I am alive, I am human. If I let go, am I letting go of my story?
Can you really heal them anyway, God? Aren’t so many of them the consequences of my actions—the cross I must bear? You don’t promise to take away our pain, You promise to use it for good.
And yet, these wounds they weigh me down.
Let Me carry the weight.
The thought is so sweet, so tempting. Yet everything inside me protests. To unburden the load would be to give up control, and trust that the answers will come, to give up the search for solutions.
Am I strong enough for that?
And so I hold on to this weight, this mass that pulls me down. I anchor myself to it as though it is the earth that supports me.
But it doesn’t belong to me.
I look ahead to the final stretch of my route—the sharp incline that always leaves me fighting for air. My legs ache as I push against gravity, against the fearful thoughts that tell me to resist release, and the cry of my soul that says I can’t do it alone.
But I also notice that the sadness has eased, that the burden is just a little lighter than when I woke two hours earlier. I check my watch and realize I have been running for well over an hour.
When finally I collapse into the weedy blades of grass surrounding my home, I stare up at the sky, fingers resting against the rise and fall of my abdomen, and I smile.
This is the place. The place where God is close and I am vulnerable; where I know I am never alone.
This is the place of surrender.
Image credit: Guian Bolisay