Saturday, October 16, 2010

Running Lesson #2: Pain

I quit soccer when I was 17 years old partly because I had a crush on a boy but mostly because I hated running. As a midfielder is was my job to sprint the length of the filed about 25 times a game, and when you're 5 foot nothing, that's no small task. I got a doctor to diagnose me with asthma so I could be prescribed an inhaler, but the real prescription should probably have been, "Run more child, you're terribly out of shape!"

Now, at the age of 24, at a place where I'm enjoying running for the first time, still some of my old misgivings are in place, especially when it comes to the issue of pain.

My dad use to tell me that soccer games were won or lost by a team's stamina. "If you can run for 90 minutes straight," he said, "you'll win every time." I used to take of down the street as a teenager to run around the neighborhood. One lap around the block, and I was done not because I didn't have the capacity to run further, but because I was afraid of the pain associated with continuing on. The same is true of my training now.

Just today, I set out for my normal 3.6 mile loop with the home stretch spanning Quarryview--a very steep half mile hill. I got to the hill with everything I needed to push through. Get up music was pumping in my iPod, my water bottle was still half way full, I was breathing easy, but a quarter of the way up the hill, I stopped to walk. My capacity wasn't the issue but the pain associated with each step on the steep incline. And really, deeper than the pain which isn't all that excruciating is my fear of the pain. The battle of Quarryview is not my capacity and never will be my capacity. The battle of Quarryview is all in my head.

I find the same struggle as I reach for the dreams God has laid before me. In Him, I have full capacity. I make a choice each day as to whether I'm going to listen to the shallowness of my breath, the aching in my legs, or the voice in my head that says, "Just walk; it will be so much easier," or whether I'm going to push through and in doing so laugh in the face of all my doubts and rationalizations.

And then, I'm reminded of the times in my life when I didn't choose pain, pain chose me. I haven't always chosen sacrifice or cost, they were simply demanded. As hard as those seasons of my life have been, I look back and see, yes, the pain that followed me, but beyond that the fruit God brought out of the sweat, tears, pleadings, and determination to take one more step knowing that at some point the hill comes to an end. And I believe God in His grace and mercy has used the pain in my life to increase my capacity for His Kingdom just as pushing through the pain in running has increased my capacity to run further and faster than I thought possible.

I'm not afraid any more because I know come what may, there is a life to be lived beyond the pain and a hope that one day even pain itself will be no more. And along the way, some really good get up music helps.