Then I ran past this woman, who was probably a few years younger than me, a lot heavier than I was, and much slower than me on a bad day. Judging by the way she ran, she seemed to be struggling in ways even I couldn’t imagine. Her body limped along in severe pain. She looked so miserable that I couldn’t help but feel her pain myself.
I hate to admit it, but when I ran past her, I felt a bit smug and secure in my limited abilities. I might not have been very good at running, but I was at least better than this woman.
I am not sure why, but every day I went out to run, I would see her struggle between steps. When I walked my dog, there she was huffing and puffing. There were times when I was drove past her lost in a daze of pain and sweat. Every time I saw her, I would say myself, “I’m glad that’s not me.”
I am not proud of this. Nor am I bragging. I am simply showing my own human failure. Inside my head I knew I was not practicing the love I so often preach. Instead, I was hypocritically judging her in a way that I hated others doing it to me. Then one day, everything changed.
I don’t know when it happened, but my left heel just decided to give up. Not only did it refuse to move, it was also burning as if someone was using millions of tiny electrodes to spark a fire in my lower leg. No matter how much I stretched or worked to loosen the muscles, my achilles refused to budge. My days of running had come to an end.
I had watched enough athletes blow out theirs that I knew it was time to hang up my running shoes and give up on my dream of running a marathon. Instead, I took up walking. Not speed walking, but just the plain old shuffle-a-foot-in-front-of-the-other-and-try-not-to-wince-in-pain kind of walking.
As we come to what seems to be the end of this two year virial ordeal, I still pass by this woman. Only something is different. She is the one who runs past me. I don’t know her story, but I have noticed a great change in her life, in the way she moves, that leads me to believe she’s heading in the right direction.
She has lost about a third of her weight. She runs at a speed and with a confidence that is much better than I was doing. And I also noticed she didn’t seem to be in any more pain. In fact, I’m not sure it was some kind of pain that was making her run the way she does, but simply her gait. Like a speed walker who has kicked it up a notch.
In between the space of 2020 and 2022, have watched this woman has transformed herself – for the better. She seems happier, healthier, and even a bit holier in that she has shown in me a Divine Spirit of truth both in her and in myself. Seeing her run reminds me of the way we all ought to navigate life. Taking one step at a time as we transform ourselves for the better.
Today, churches around the world begin the 40-day journey of Lent. A time of wilderness wondering and self-discovery as we walk with Jesus towards his cross in Jerusalem. It’s a time when we often give something up as a way to make us better than we were before. It’s a time of fasting. But it is also a time of feasting.
If you are really looking to change, to be truly transformed, then I would encourage you to find a goal you want to achieve and feast on it. Then ask yourself, “What is holding me back from achieving this goal?” and fast from that.
We are given 40 days to make mistakes, fail, and test our limits. But each of these things provides us a reminder of what we are trying to achieve. And little-by-little, mistake-after-mistake, we get a little better, a little stronger, and hopefully a little holier along the way.
It's not supposed to be easy. But neither is running a marathon (so I hear). It’s about keeping pace with yourself, and in tune with where God is leading you – revealing little holy moments in between to keep you going forward. As an old friend likes to say, “Onward and Upward!”
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”