This image of course looks nothing like reality, but in my mind, I’m totally an Indian princess warrior every time I run. Or the character Cora, from Last of the Mohicans, running after her love through the war-torn forest. There is nothing more freeing and inspiring than running for me, and since most of the time I’m leaving three boys behind for an hour; my little mountain running trail is truly a nature-filled sanctuary of glorious solitude and freedom.
Running has always been one of the few constants in my life. Since the age of 15, I’ve laced up the Nikes through the coldest winters and hottest summers of Connecticut, through every season of life and every time of joy, loss and transition. Running in nature has always been spiritual for me, receiving inspiration for writing, answers to prayers and experiencing some borderline profound thoughts (keepin’ in real) while running through that narrow, winding path so far away from the oppression and distractions of this ridiculous world.
I’ve always considered that trail to be a symbol of God in our lives. No matter what I’m going through, that path is always there, offering beauty, rest, comfort, restoration, and a gentle reminder of who I am, what’s important in life, and just a consistent sense of “it’s all going to be okay.” Through the years I’ve showed up in every state of mind imaginable- defeated and worn down, sometimes full of joy and energy, coming off an exciting success of the day and sometimes half-heartedly dragging myself there to burn some darned calories. That path has seen every side of my makeup-less self, and I’ve come out of those woods at the end of my run changed, and in a better state from when I began.
To me, it’s the ultimate analogy of God’s nature. He’s always there, waiting for us to run to him. He doesn’t care where we’re coming from, why we’re running to him or how long it’s been since our last run. He’s so unmoving, so comforting, and so good for us, no matter the state he finds us in. And just as I’ve always exited that trail feeling changed for the better, our spirits are always transformed after walking alongside him. Even if it’s just a wave of peace and assurance he’s there, we simply can’t spend time with him without parts of our hearts being awakened and delighted. And what’s amazing is that although the path never changes, the revelations I receive when running are always new. Just like Him. One of my favorite attributes of God is his ability to remain constant-his faithfulness mercy and continual grace- yet he always grows and evolves in the way he relates and speaks to us.
He’s always waiting to show us something new about ourselves, him, and the world around us. Every time I notice something new on that same five mile stretch up a mountain-the way the ice half-freezes over the river, the way some branches hang just low enough for me to get through a narrow turn, I can’t help but think what other parts of the trail I’ll discover and how cool it is to find continual discoveries on a path I’ve known, for so long.
But of all the amazing and wonderful revelations I’ve had through running, the best has got to be my ever-astounding record of never falling on my face while sprinting down snow and leaf- covered rock trails, despite my egregious clumsiness. Knowing the comedy of errors that is my life, I’ll most likely get hauled down that trail on a stretcher the day after this posts, but I remain convinced: I don’t fall, because I’m too busy delighting in him. I have practically run down that steep path with my eyes closed, combating potential wildlife threats by belting out worship songs, and I have remained essentially fall-free. This might seem less than special to the steady-footed folk, but coming from the clumsy sort who constantly closes her purse strap in the car door and trips down stairs at work because mama’s never giving up her stilettos…this is quite the miracle.
The more I’ve thought about it, this non-falling phenomena really is the mantra of my life. When I’m focused on Jesus, literally doing nothing but praising him and focusing on joy, he’s got it. He directs my steps without me even having to ask. How many times have I “fallen” after making bad decisions or forced to travel the hard road because I’ve taken my eyes off him? How many times have I allowed myself to be distracted by the things of this world like fear and stress, and fallen flat to the ground? And how many trials and potential traps has he saved me from, most likely with me not even knowing- because my eyes were looking up towards him, instead of the steep, icy descent before me?
I’m not saying I’m never going to take a digger. Or that when we fall, it’s a sign of spiritual weakness. All I know is God’s always there, he’s never boring, and all is good, when we delight in him. Plus I’m sure the best of warrior princesses have taken a digger or two… Psalm 37:4.