My best friend ran her first half-marathon yesterday.
But, amid the feelings of pride and excitement on her behalf, I discovered another emotion — jealousy.
That was supposed to be me.
Running has always been my thing. Aside from my relationship with God and my family and friends, there is nothing I love more than a long and hard trail run in the mountains.
And, I’m good at it. Or, at least, I was. I won the high school state championship in track in the two-mile as an eighth grader and won the state cross-country meet as a sophomore, breaking the previous course record. My prospects in the running world were good. I hoped to run cross-country in college at a top-notch school and be running trail races long after that.
But an injury to my hip shattered some of those dreams and put others on hold. And it’s been tough to swallow. Real tough. A few years down the road, hundreds of physical therapy appointments, countless doctor’s visits, a surgery, and more tears than I sometimes care to admit, it’s still hard.
Why would God bless me with the ability to run, a gift so many told me I “better do something with,” for such a short time? Or, if He still has something for me to do with this gift, why the wait?
Not being able to run feels like a part of my identity that I loved and of which I was proud has been removed. I felt amazing when I ran. I wholeheartedly agreed with Eric Liddell when he said, “When I run, I feel his [God’s] pleasure.” And I did. I never feel closer to God than I did running. My labored breathes, sore muscles, and muddy calves where evidence of an amazing adventure; a secret treasure between my loving Father and myself.
And now, gone.
So here again I sat. I was both excited for and extremely jealous of my best friend. She was out there running 13.2 miles on a gorgeous trail and I was at home, not yet able to run that distance again.
I sat slouched in my pajama pants and hooded sweatshirt trying to ignore the extra pounds that I had put on since my competitive running days had taken a hiatus (further adding to my cheerful disposition). The foggy cool weather outside fit my mood perfectly. I was having a happy little pity party for poor ole’ me.
I remembered every time the latest edition of Trail Runner magazine had come in the mail, every time I’d heard running stories, every time I’d walked past a runner on their daily jaunt, every morning or evening of perfect-for-running-weather, and that giddy mix of excitement soon followed by disappointment and a twinge of jealousy that always came. I thought of my continual prayer, God, you know how much I want to run, to explore the wonder and solitude of your creation with just you, me, and the sound of my feet on the packed dirt. How much it makes me feel alive. Why this stupid injury, God? Can it please be healed now?
But then I paused my thoughts and put a clamp on the growing feelings of jealousy and anger. It was then that I heard the still small voice say, “I love you. My plan is perfect.”
Perfect? Really? Sometimes it feels like You’re screwing something up.
Like an angry teenager, I wanted to rattle off the ways I think His plan isn’t perfect, and no longer limited to my lack of being able to run. But instead, I attempted to calm my spirit as a stream of familiar scripture passages filled my head.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11). “His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2b). “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2b).
“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
I sighed, convicted of my mistrust, and repeated them to myself.
Perfect. His plan is perfect.
I realized, as I have many times over the course of this injury, that although I know and believe this truth, I struggle with living in the assurance of His plan. I struggle with questions of why and attempt to determine my own direction. The imperfections of this fallen world bombard me with trials everyday that challenge my faith and attitude and, all too often, I forget my utter dependence on God.
My prayers become more about what I need God to do to fix the situation, than humble, worshipful submission to His will. I was OK with walking the path He had for me when it matched step for step with the path I had envisioned for myself. But the moment He moved in a direction different from what my ideas were, I panicked and grew frustrated.
Was I willing to surrender my own goals, dreams, and aspirations to follow His perfect plan? I shuddered at the realization that, although I thought I was, there were areas of my life where I maintained a clenched-fist grasp.
I was hit with the reality of my fair-weather faith. Like the sports fans my dad and I have teased since I was a little girl for their “loyalty” to their team only when championships were being won and MVP crowns awarded, I found myself wanting to abandon God when my life wasn’t as I thought it should be. Or, at least put Him on the bench until His performance “improved.”
I was hit with my pride. That deep down in this depraved, treacherous heart of mine I desired to make much of myself rather than much of God; that my own accomplishments and happiness were of too much importance to me. I was convicted by the words of John who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
As I sat and stared out the window at the foggy rain, tears began streaming down my face. I realized then that these lessons and convictions were all a part of God forming and making me into the woman He wants me to be. And, I want that. More than any trail running championship or marathon record, I want to joyfully walk step-by-step with His plan.
Through my tears I found a new prayer, Father, humble my spirit and give me peace in knowing that I am yours and your plan is perfect. Erase the areas where my will and pride have become more important than glorifying you. I surrender my dream to you God, mold me and make me into the woman you want me to be. Help me find joy in walking in step with your plan. May my life make much of you and less of me.
I don’t know what the future holds. I hope it includes a return to running mountain trails, but it may not. I do know this: My heavenly Father’s plan is perfect. My Savior, the Sovereign Lord, loves me and has a plan for my life that is more than I could ever imagine. And, that is something to find comfort, purpose, and assurance in — whether or not I’m running marathons.