the race that is set before me

it has finally decided to rain here in northern california, and this means that i am a happy girl. rain is not essential for my happiness, of course, and i dearly love sunshine…but still, rain rarely fails to put a grin on my face. and so, this afternoon, i’m sitting in front of a fire (directly in front, so probably my poor family is not feeling much of its heat =P ), with a cup of coffee and some shortbread with lemon curd–my version of lemon bars, since i have yet to make a successful batch of the real kind. outside of the window, there’s a bit of a drizzle, and the fence and the trees are dark with moisture and altogether, it’s a lovely day. i’m enjoying the rain.

i usually enjoy being out in the rain nearly as much or more than being inside while it’s raining. i especially love running in the rain. there’s something about the smells, and the freshness of the air, the water on my face and the way my hair feels, whipping on my face…coming home to a hot shower…not sure what it is, but rainy weather is running weather to me. but yesterday i had my fill and more. i didn’t realize there was a flash flood advisory when i decided to run up a mountain. i did know it was not merely raining, it was storming. but still…i had four hill miles to run, and since the regional park where i usually go on saturdays promised to be flowing with mud, i geared up and set off for the Big Hill which i have been planning on running–and somehow managing not to run–for several weeks now. it’s the longest, steepest hill around and though i hear that it will be my best coach, i am not looking forward to making its better acquaintance in the upcoming weeks.

it only took about half a mile for me to be almost completely drenched, lactic acid to build up in my muscles that refused to warm up (i opted for board shorts in hopes that they wouldn’t get as waterlogged, but the fabric still soaked and stuck to my legs, which kept them cold), and for me to begin wondering why i ever attempted this. and from then on, it was a pretty miserable run. hills and i do not get along well, and this was (or felt like) a monster hill. it did. not. end.

it did, actually. most things do. but not until i’d stopped several times, walked a few times, and nearly turned back a dozen times. down hill was better, and i didn’t have to stop, but i could feel my shins start aching and since i was no longer focused on just trying to take one more step, i was at liberty to notice that where, at half a mile, i was almost completely soaked, now i was more thoroughly soaked than i remember ever having been in my life. and extremely cold. and whereas going uphill, the river of water on the sidewalk was running in the opposite direction that i was trying to (making it that much more difficult, mentally and visually, at least), now it felt like it was trying to make me slip so that it could carry me along down with it.

i finally got back to the car, toweled off and shed my dripping sweatshirt and drove home, arriving in a state of teeth-chattering and the repeated remark, ‘oooooooh, goodness…’ because it was that cold. i tell you. a hot shower, a hot mocha, and a dry pair of jeans never felt so good.

i think that was probably the hardest run i’ve done yet. hopefully it was a combination of factors, including cold and rain and intimidation, because hills i will just need to learn to deal with. but the fact of the matter is, those four hill miles took far, far more out of me than the six flat miles i ran on wednesday.  i’m enjoying not moving, here in front of the fire, but when i do i can feel that i’m sore all over. the muscles next to my shins, especially. and it recalled a spurgeon reading from the end of january, one that caught my attention because of its focus.

january 31/evening

‘then ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran cushi’

2 samuel 18:23

running is not everything, there is much in the way which we select: a swift foot over hill and down dale will not keep pace with a slower traveller upon level ground. how is it with my spiritual journey, am i labouring up the hill of my own works and down the ravines of my own humiliations and resolutions, or do i run by the plain way of ‘believe and live’? how blessed is it to wait upon the Lord by faith! the soul runs without weariness, and walks without fainting, in the way of believing. Christ Jesus is the way of life, and He is a plain way, a pleasant way, a way suitable for the tottering feet and feeble knees of trembling sinners: am i found in this way, or am i hunting after another track such as priestcraft or metaphysics may promise me? i read of the way of holiness, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein: have i been delivered from proud reason and been brought as a little child to rest in Jesus’ love and blood? if so, by God’s grace, i shall outrun the strongest runner who chooses any other path. this truth i may remember to my profit in my daily cares and needs. it will be my wisest course to go at once to my God, and not to wander in a roundabout manner to this friend and that. He knows my wants and can relieve them, to whom should i repair but to Himself by the direct appeal of prayer, and the plain argument of the promise. ‘straightforward makes the best runner.’ i will not parley with the servants, but hasten to their Master.

in reading this passage, it strikes me that if men vie with one another in common matters, and one outruns the other, i ought to be in solemn earnestness so to run that i may obtain. Lord, help me to gird up the loins of my mind, and may i press forward towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

hills–spiritual or physical–are no joke. it is precious to know that, in Christ, we no longer need to run them. He has gone before and made the paths straight for His fellow heirs…not that these paths will not be difficult. He promises that they will. but they are not impossible. His yoke is still a yoke, and His burden still a burden…but He promises that they are light and easy, in comparison with the demands of the law and our attempts to earn righteousness through works. and so, though i often go off-course, i trust that He will continue to lead me in the flats…and furthermore, that i will learn to love running the flats so much that i will not be tempted to leave them and try again to earn His favor or beat myself up over my failure to live as though i have been redeemed.

unfortunately…the same does not go for the physical race. =P a friend at church today was very seriously advising that i reconsider the half marathon that i chose, because it is a hard one. the hills are long and steep and very hard. and the more i try and fail to run long steep hard hills without feeling like i’m going to die and stopping to walk every so often, the more i question whether this was actually a good decision and whether i might try for a different–and easier–half to begin with. for now, though, my rebellious side is holding out, and i’d like to at least try it. i can always choose to run the seven miles instead, if i just can’t make it thirteen.

and so, though spiritually i will be running flats, or trying to–physically, i’ll still be running hills.

or trying to.



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