When I first began running years ago, it was purely for selfish reasons. I wanted to be in shape, I liked how it made me feel, it was away from everyone in my house, I could get outside and just think. Selfish isn't necessarily a bad thing- it's just the motives were solely for me, no one else benefited.
My husband and I use to run together, yet when he passed, that all stopped. The thought of running without him was unbearable. Not that I ran regularly with him, it was just when I'd go and come home, he'd ask how it was, how was I feeling, and if he was feeling brave- what my time was. He rarely asked that because he knew I am freakishly competitive and my time was never close to his. I am abysmally slow when I run, well, slow for someone with the leg length I have anyway. He wasn't competitive, he was just a numbers guy and liked to cheer me on.
For a year and some months, I let myself go in every sense of that phrase. Food choices, lack of exercise, minimal amount of supplementation and don't even go there about my sleep habits. Pitiful.
In late November I heard the Lord say, “it’s time.” I knew what He meant. I had musing about running ever since we moved to the sorta country. I love running in a more nature type setting, the beach, the woods, in the middle of no where- all suit me way better than a suburb. I knew it was time to hit the road again. My daughter was kind enough to accompany me on those first few weeks of my runs, even when the weather was less than kind, until one day it was so apparent that she is way faster than me. Do you know how painful it is to run with someone that is 2 minutes a mile slower than you? She's a trooper but it was time I ran on my own.
For Mark, running was more a spiritual practice than a physical one. Don’t get me wrong, at first it was a bit of a challenge for him to get back into it, said he’d run enough miles in the army. But once he got his groove and finished losing 75lbs, running was where he met Jesus. Every day, for 3 and a half years, he would run with our Savior. When it was all said and done, he logged in over a thousand miles, maybe closer to 1,200.
I could tell it was life for him, though some days it irritated me because the streak running took time out. He ran in the Miami airport on our way to Ecuador, while I horked down pizza and waved at him, all while rolling my eyes. He ran at rest stops on our way to and from Massachusetts. We ran down the Washington Memorial, where 44 years prior I had apparently decided to take a swim. The times when I rolled my eyes or grew impatient with his streak running, oh I cringe at those stupid thoughts I had, and I wish I had been kinder. I’m fairly certain that if he said, “ya know, I just need to stop driving for awhile and read my bible” or, "hey while you all tour the Lincoln memorial, I'm going to have some time with Jesus", we would have joyfully let him for as long as he needed. Hindsight is indeed, 20/20 and there's zero good fruit that comes with regrets so, we'll just leave those right here.
Truly, there was a gross lack of understanding for what these runs were to him. Those were his times of intimacy with his King. When he got real sick in Spring of 2021, he stopped running and honestly, I often wonder if that was the beginning of the end of his time here.
Whenever I have started a running routine my hips betray me. Now that I'm knocking on 50's door, the hips were less than pleased that I was beginning this resumed adventure. On one particular run in late December, the wind was 25 mph and I was doing my level best to cut through it. After that my hips told an angry story and for the next two weeks each time I would finish a run, they let me know in no uncertain terms they were not feeling happy. But, if during they didn't chatter, off I went.
In the past week it got to the point that now during the run it was uncomfortable. Before the hip only hurt when I stopped running. So I figured that’s an easy fix, some oils, ice and maybe if I felt like putting in that much effort, an Epsom salt bath. The latter was never experienced. I’m almost 6 feet tall, I hate baths. Baths are for short people.
I lamented to a friend about it in the context of, “I want to ask the Lord to heal me, but I don’t think He will.” I shared with her that I have the same experiences my husband had while running. It’s a place of prayer for me, I hear Him so well on those runs, I have experienced deliverance at times. I get ideas for writing, I find strategies for helping my kids, and I pray for whatever neighborhood I’m running in. It’s a sweet time for me.
So here's the weird thought I was having and subsequently sharing with my friend- I love running, it makes me happy, so God probably won't heal me because I have fun doing this thing. Those times on the road replaced times in my prayer closet. The road became my closet. Since my husband passed, I haven’t spent a ton of time in my prayer closet because one or more children interrupt. And yes I know people say, “oh let them join you in prayer!”, but the truth is I don’t want to. That’s MY time with God. It drives my bananas to be interrupted during prayer or listening. I’m an only child, sharing is not a strong point for me. Of course, guilt wracked me because I didn’t want to share my times with the Lord with the children He gave me. Geez, I wonder how little guilt people felt before the advent of social media and religious books written on how to be a christian.
So when my hip was excruciating, I had to confess to the Lord I didn’t believe He’d heal me because I probably have made running an idol and should be sitting in my closet, (with my children if necessary) and praying. Certainly not running.
After I shared a little of this warped mindset with my friend she said something to the effect of, “oh yes, that’s your intimacy onramp with Him.” I honestly don’t remember the rest of what she said because that shook me. She was pointing out that running was a way I connected with God, not just something super fun for me.
An intimacy onramp…
First of all, I grew up with a screwed up view of intimacy, as I suspect many of you have as well. So intimacy with the Lord has always been a weird concept. But I thought about my friend’s words, an intimacy onramp and all of a sudden a revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. He called me to running. It’s something I love, something that gives me such joy. And like Eric Liddell is famous for saying, “I feel His pleasure when I run.”
It’s a fun time I have with my King, just me and Him, out on the roads, listening, talking, experiencing.
An intimacy onramp is a simply a way someone begins a deeper connection with the Lord. We all connect with Him differently, yet that's really never mentioned, or at least wasn't when I came to faith. I was taught that you have your "quiet time" sitting alone in a room, and whatever you do, sit still because that's what Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still."
Running is a way that I am able to begin connecting with God in a way that is personal and then for the rest of the day, I am so in tune with my Lord that prayer flows, praise flows, work flows. Everything just clicks.
Somewhere along the way I got the legalistic thought of a prayer time or worship needs to be in your closet, preferable on the floor, but don’t be too comfortable. I already struggled with the fact that I had bible reading time in the comfort of my cushy chair with my coffee. Sometimes I would think, ‘you know, if I were really doing this right, I probably wouldn’t be drinking coffee’. I know, it’s totally warped, but I’ve got a whole list of warped ideas I got from churchianity.
The beautiful truth is this- when you listen to our Lord and His leading, He takes you on a path that is so unique to you and it’s perfectly suited for your specific design. Intimacy with the Lord isn’t something that can be taught from a pulpit or in the pages of a book you find at Mardel. It’s found in the presence of our God, and in my opinion, it’s just something you stumble on as you listen for His call. Maybe it's never occurred to you that the very thing you love doing most, is something He gave you, a place or activity that you can meet with Him, just you two- no one else. If not, I wonder what might come of your time doing those things that He created you to do and enjoy? Would be cool to find out, don't you think?