I often find myself living life the same way I ran seventh-grade cross country.
Simply put: not well.
I remember watching the older runners prior to a race. They were stretching and jogging around, warming up for the few miles they would be running around random golf courses. I understood the stretching part, but I never quite got the jogging part. For me, finishing the race meant I should store up as much energy as possible. Sometimes, I was dragging myself across the finish line or walking small sections where there were no cheering fans. Why would I foolishly waste energy just moments before the race?
A few years ago, I was running pretty consistently and I completed a five-mile race. It was as I was finishing the race that I finally understood what those high school students had been doing years ago. Crossing the finish line, I felt really good. In fact, my third and fourth miles felt way better than the first two. My time wasn’t incredible, but I was satisfied with it for myself. I had logged enough miles that I was at the point where I grasped the concept of running so as to warm up. I wasn’t wasting energy–it was instead needed so I could run better. In my conservative, store-up-everything mindset, it was revolutionary to understand that giving some allowed me to give more.
Weekends during the school year and portions of the summer find me falling into that same trap of storing up instead of spending. I’m an introvert and I have yet to find the perfect life balance when my job is one that requires so much extrovertedness. In the evenings, I don’t want to be surrounded by people. On the weekends, I’d rather curl up in my home. During the summer months, I convince myself that relaxing, watching movies, and being a recluse are exactly what I need in order to survive the school year.
But I don’t think that is actually true.
I mean, I want it to be true because that would be an extremely convenient excuse. But it isn’t reality. When I turn in on myself and don’t enter into community, it doesn’t really make me want to be communal later. Instead, I find a dozen more reasons to not go out, to not share myself. Reasons that essentially boil down to being lazy and selfish.
Continue reading “Poured Out”
You’ve got to start somewhere.
When I was little, I remember looking at the Minesweeper game on my family’s computer but having no idea how to play it. (Kind of similar to the Risk computer game…except I’ve never taken the time to figure Risk out.) I would click random boxes and then numbers would appear until, eventually, everything would explode. Not knowing the purpose or goal of the game meant success was unlikely to happen.
However, even now that I know the game, I still find it slightly frustrating that there is no perfect way to start it. Usually you don’t end up selecting a mine right away but sometimes you do. And there is no foolproof way to avoid it. You simply need to begin in a random place.
Sometimes I feel that way with life. Transformations that I desire to happen or significant projects I would like to complete often baffle me by providing no clear entry point. Where does one begin? What is the correct way to start?
For years, I’ve wanted to write a book. When I was younger, it was simply the broad idea of desiring to write a book. Now I know the topic, the title, and the general idea, but I still lack the plan I believe I need to be successful in the endeavor. I want some clear outline or step-by-step process that will enable me to have a fail proof starting point. However, the perfect beginning eludes me. Continue reading “To Begin”
Whether it is cleaning a room, getting into an exercise routine, or starting a new school year, I’ve discovered that it gets worse before it gets better.
Somehow, I’ve managed to turn a blind eye to the state of my bedroom for the entire summer. I knew it was a mess and yet it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I saw it with the eyes of reality. As I began to move some boxes around and sort through a pile of clothes, I realized that it was getting worse. My attempts to clean were making my room more unlivable. Yet I reminded myself that it needed to get worse so it could get better. It still isn’t great, but my room is looking better, bit by bit.
The same was true a couple of years ago when I picked up running for a while. The first run was tiring as I realized how out of shape I was. Yet the next couple runs were worse as my sore muscles protested being used again so soon. Eventually, though, it did get better. In fact, I ran a 5-mile race and finally understood why runners say they need a few miles to warm up. Having never been a “real” runner, I always thought I should conserve my energy, but as I finished the race, I could feel that I was running far better than the first couple miles. Continue reading “It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better”
This might be premature, but I find it interesting that what has motivated me to take up running is teaching. More specifically, my students. “Take up running” means I’ve gone for four runs in the past week. It could all fall apart very soon (definitely has happened before), but I think this might be here to stay for the time being.
A couple weeks ago I came to a realization: I don’t sacrifice for my students. They come up in my prayers and I hope the best for them. However, I don’t often find myself tangibly offering things up for them, other than allowing them to keep living after a particularly trying class period.
I’ve realized this lack of sacrifice before. This time I was compelled to do something about it. Running is something good for me and good for them. I find myself thinking about them as I run and offering up my labored breaths for them.
Yet the more I run (think: slow jog), the more reasons I find to keep doing it. I’ve run twice through my neighborhood and while I don’t like it as much, I think I might keep it up because it gives a new perspective and new prayer intentions. I run past a home and I hear the muffled sound of a man and woman arguing. Or I run around a bend and see two kids in front of a house, a larger pre-teen girl slapping the head of a smaller pre-teen boy. The girl looks belligerent and the boy has his defenses up but is angry. She glances at me and there are no more blows while I run by the house.
I find myself praying for peace as I meander the streets of my neighborhood. This little heart inexplicably finds itself aching for situations I will never know about, fights I will never see, hurtful words I will never hear, but that are happening in these places so near to me. I prayed for peace to flow through these houses. For homes to be places of peace, not places where we take up arms against our flesh and blood. For parents to show their children how to love. For people to experience the love and peace of Christ that I have experienced.
It is not that much, and I should in all rights probably be doing far more. But for now, I am running for my students. For their addictions, depression, relationships, struggles, and hearts. When I nearly convince myself to not go for a planned run, I remember them and realize I’m not doing it for me, but for them. And it makes me run.