The Chili Pepper Invite is one of the biggest cross-country races in the nation. Imagine 400 female college athletes all crammed into 4 rows. As I was lying in bed the night before the race, I found myself anxiously worrying. I began to pray, but I had no idea what to ask for. I sat in God’s presence, and I was at a complete and utter loss for words. I didn’t want to ask for something meaningless: like for him to help me run my best or beat my time. I wanted to ask for him to help me grow. I desperately searched for something to come to God with, but everything seemed pitiful and insignificant. Out of nowhere, Romans 8:26 popped into my head.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Humbled, I felt the chaos in my heart and mind grow quiet and still. I came before God, asking for nothing other than his will to be poured out in my life. In that moment, I wholeheartedly trusted what the Holy Spirit was going to give. I knew that only God’s perfect plan would be carried out, all it took was obedience. I fell into a deep sleep cradled in God’s presence.
The next morning was race day. I woke up with my heart hammering in my chest, and nerves coursing through my body. I wish I could say this wasn’t true, but I am flawed. I fell into my regular race day jitters. After forcing down what little breakfast I could ingest, we headed out to the course.
As my nerves built, I began to pray. I had to purposely remind myself of my realization the night before. Whatever I needed, he would grant to me. Why would he not if it involved growing my faith? The warm-up, stretches, and strides all flashed by. Before I knew it, I was standing on the starting line looking to my left and to my right. So many bodies. “Choose faith, and not fear,” I told myself over and over again.
Bang. I felt my body begin to move as my mind desperately searched for openings to push into. I was feeling lost, overwhelmed, and terrified. Within the first mile, I saw a teammate who is usually behind me. She ran up next to me, and it dawned on me that I was hitting below pace. My coach’s advice began to ring in my ears, and I began to move up into the different packs until I was finally hitting splits again.
After mile two, my body began to give in. I was felt fatigue settle in my muscles. Right as I began to consciously slow down, I heard a voice call out my name. “Nicky!”
I looked to my left, and there was Rachel. She was one of my competitors in high school that prayed with me before races and pushed me during them. We made eye contact, and I was stunned beyond all belief. We were in a crowd of 400 female runners. The odds of her finding me were absolutely impossible, but she did it anyway. I don’t believe in coincidences. This was planned by my Father who knows my every need.
I finished my race ahead of my goal, and with a PR of 30 seconds. The race was 2 minutes faster than the year before on the same course.
I don’t expect that God will grant me a win. I know that not every race is going to be perfect, but I do know that whatever happens follows a plan. In my most vulnerable moments of the race, God showed me his love and mercy. He did not let me give up on myself, though I was very close. Every step of the way, God is upholding me. He is teaching me to choose faith, not fear.