I used to be THE worst head case. Not to say that I am totally cured, but I have grown in my six years of competitive running. I can distinctly remember standing at the start of one race. I looked to my right and to my left, and all I could see was runners who looked faster than me. I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes and make their way down of the curves of my cheeks. All I could think about at the starting line was running away. I still remember how my heart felt inside my chest. It seemed to be pounding so fiercely that my entire body shook. The sound was so loud it reverberated into my ears.
Needless to say, that race did not end well.
Every race felt this way, though usually not to the point of tears. I can remember the exact moment everything changed. It’s a picture in my memory, an image with every bend and smudge memorized. I was standing at the starting line of my 3200 meter race.
At this point, I had been a believer for less than six months. I was still trying to figure out how God fit into my life; I hadn’t learned that he wasn’t just pieces to the puzzle of my life. He is the puzzle.
Rising panic began to well up inside of me. I was entering my pre-race ritual: nervous jitters and self-destructive thoughts. I looked up at the sky. The huge expanse was the prettiest blue I have ever seen, and it went as far as I could see. The beat of my heart began to slow down as I began to realize the illustration I was seeing. I had created my own storm, but God was above me, reminding me that he is a blue sea of peace. In that moment of stillness between the command to the line and the gun, Philippians 4:67 eased its way into my mind.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Since then, it has been an imperfect road to giving God everything, not just some things.
To be honest, I still always feel at least a little anxious. I think that’s only natural. I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my body, and through the nerves, I can feel my body preparing for competition. Last week, my cross country team and I competed at Regionals in Denver. For this race, I was genuinely excited. I wanted to see my progress from my traumatizing race last year.
The morning of the meet, we drove over to the course. To my complete disbelief, the weather was perfect. November 22nd, and it was 50 degrees. I had no one else to thank but God.
Our warm-up jog was absolutely surreal. I couldn’t stop staring at the beauty of the course.
At this race, I will admit that I cried. My silent tears were not out of fear or overwhelming nerves. They were out of complete and total surrender to God. I was beyond thankful that I had been able to travel to Denver. I was grateful the weather was beautiful and that the course looked like it had been pulled right out of a magazine. I was feeling blessed beyond belief that I could run. Most of all, I was humbled to tears that God continually pours out his love on me.
Regionals is just a race. I walked up the the starting line with tears in my eyes. This time, they were there for the right reasons. As I was blinking them back, I was bursting with the knowledge that God has created in me a desire to glorify his divine grace.
When the starter gave his instructions, I felt like time had stopped. I could feel the soft breeze gently running against my face, and as I looked down the line, I felt nothing but peace.
Even when my body was growing fatigued, I kept thinking about Jesus and his pain on the cross. Mine was nothing compared to that. I crossed the finish line slightly behind my goal, and with a slower time. But I had moved up over thirty places from last year. The team didn’t qualify for nationals, but I walked away feeling pleased with my performance. I had left everything on the course, and there was no room for disappointment.
Looking back to the moment I found God in racing, I can see exactly how far I have come. The path hasn’t been straight and perfect. I see ruts and mud, but I also see God’s hand in it every step of the way. As my seasons of running change, I’m looking forward to what God has in store for me. I’m eagerly awaiting both the lessons and the struggles.