One Race to Run

horse

Maybe I’m conjuring up the spirit of National Velvet or some other famous race horse. A filmy image of one such beauty floats through my imagination when I try to describe this place of anxiety, excitement, freedom, healing and fear that courses through my body. Others might simply call it adrenaline, but I know it’s so much more. I’ve never felt this way before.

Several years ago, I took the first permanent steps away from anorexia. As I did, I turned and quickly tossed a proverbial match onto the proverbial bridge of old behaviors. There’s no going back. No matter the fear, no matter the temptation, no matter the uncertainty, I will never again entertain the seductive, demonic voice of an eating disorder.

Now, in most recent days, God has opened up the field in front of me. I am that race horse, leaning into the wind, shot from the starting gate, fueled by memories of the terrible confinement of anorexia. There is no going back.

The track is wide, muddy, the congestion of competition fades beside and then behind me. The faster I go, the farther from the gate, there is more and more potential, more and more possibility, more and more surety that I will win this race. And now, the others are on my heels, they follow, picking up speed. It seems as if they are energized by my passion, pulling ahead.

God penned a book with my fingers. He has brought me an agent and a publisher and an audience. He has done all these good things. But they scare me. The field is so wide, the race is so long and those close behind are drafting, following me, trusting me in some way. I’ve never run this course before. What if I fall, what if I fail?

But the truth is,

The faster run, the farther I stretch.

With each lengthening stride,

I’m farther from that prison.

I kick up more dust over that confining starting gate.

I bury it in the rush of my enthusiasm for freedom.

The wind is cool.

I am scared.

But the more I lean into the wind,

The more I stretch,

The farther I leave fear,

The more beautiful, compelling, the future.

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Permission of Pain

The Olympics came to a close yesterday. Both in preparation and during the competition, there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and yes, pain. Pain is unavoidable for those committed to training for most sports. To increase endurance, an athlete has to push past the breaking point. Blisters form, pop and tear on a gymnast’s hands. Every mountain biker tumbles through the rock garden once or twice. The hurdler sprawls face first, injuring pride and ankle.

These are expected pains. Growing pains. They gain glory through survival and triumph over the pain.

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

No pain no gain – athletic mantras

I want to twist this truth just a little bit. I want to look at the permission of pain. 

I am not saying that an Olympian or any athlete looks forward to the tearing, telling pain of a pulled muscle or broken bone or any other debilitating injury. No one does. But sometimes it brings relief. What if one of the reasons God gave us pain was so that our overly-zealous, compulsive minds would receive the permission to rest.

I have been studying rest with a wonderful website: www.shelovesmagazine.com . That’s their theme for August and it has proved to be a nagging growing pain in my own heart. You see, I hate to rest. I was raised and programed to perform and produce. Product is posterity. When God informed me through His word that He rested and he designed me, a mortal, to require and to take rest, I nodded, “What a good idea, God. When I’m done here.”

What if God is allowing us to be taught something. What if He is waiting for us to trip over a hurdle or slip from the bars because of our stubborn blisters. What if He is standing right there to pick us up, walk to the sidelines and say, “Rest. Just sit down with me. I will hold you, comfort you, encourage you. When you do go back to the race, you will run stronger, jump higher, flip faster than ever before.”

It’s actually true in athletics too. Following a day or a week of rest, or an entire off season, an athlete often comes back stronger. They have been refreshed.

Sometimes it takes pain for us to hear the already God-given permission to rest.