I went for a run the other morning. It took everything in me; I’m really not a runner. My roommate is running a marathon in a few months, so it is kind of like when a husband doesn’t drink alcohol out of support for his pregnant wife. I’m sympathy running for her.
I walked out of our door and started jogging down our street. I forgot that it was trash day, so I kind of felt like I was running through that scene in the Brave Little Toaster where they are all at the dump (was my family the only one who watched that movie repeatedly?) – or just through a somewhat classy landfill. Regardless, I immediately regretted my decision to leave my comfortable bed to go on a run. It kind of felt like Candyland, where you have to get past that creepy fat purple Barney-looking guy? I named it GarbageLand and tried not to think too hard about the animals that might jump out of the trash cans.
I ran out of our neighborhood and down onto the path. As I crossed the bridge and turned the corner, I saw glimpses through the trees of gold streaks in the sky. The sunrise! (The end of the sunrise, I don’t get up that early.) I couldn’t quite see it, but I wanted to. Suddenly I had motivation to try a little harder. I pushed myself to speed up; maybe I can catch it. Maybe I can reach a place where I can really see the sky.
It’s amazing what you can do when you push yourself a little, right? When something is just in reach? Run after what seems elusive – that’s probably how some of the most courageous and world-changing things have happened.
I found that sunrise. Just in time to snap a picture and realize, this is the beauty and JOY of life. This is how it all works.
We have to chase it. We have to seek it. It is there – just behind the trees. Ready to be found, declaring its beauty loudly and marvelously. We just have to get ourselves there.
It is a whole lot easier to stay in bed (metaphorically and literally speaking) in this life, isn’t it? It is so easy to be sad or lazy or not try. So easy to take ourselves out of the game, to assume life won’t be our friend. We say we want community, adventure, friendship, a fulfilling career, a vibrant relationship with the Lord – but are we doing the work? Are we getting out of bed?
And even then, even when we get out of bed – it doesn’t just happen. We have to wade through a lot of trash to get there. We have to be vulnerable in order to have community, we have to take some risks and do new things to have an adventure, we have to trust people and invite people in order to have friends. We have to search, apply, and work hard to find that career. A living, breathing relationship with the Lord? It doesn’t just happen to you. You have to have discipline, you have to practice disciplines. You have to engage.
I thought to myself this morning, “If you don’t fight for it, you can’t be mad when it doesn’t happen.” If I didn’t get out of bed, if I didn’t run fast enough – I would’ve missed the sky. And that is no one else’s fault but my own. Sometimes it is a “no” in life, and there is nothing we can do about it. But often the “no” is because we never tried.
Here is the deal, friends – running? Not my thing. I’m not a distance runner. Love running down the stairs to my fridge. But that’s the only race I really enjoy. But I realize that running is a practice that leads to health. It is necessary in order to function the way I want to in the rest of my life. Running (and exercise in general) has made me into a morning person, which was never a thing, and helps me function at a level that I can rarely reach without it.
But this is NOT a motivational exercise blog. Not. At. All. If you want someone to encourage you to put down the brownies? That will never be me. Eat the brownies! Enjoy the carbs!
What this is actually about is the way you engage your life. And running is a metaphor. Duh.
The Lord gives us all kinds of opportunities in our lives, and I wonder often how many we let pass us by. I wonder if when we get to Heaven, He will talk us through the “what if’s” – what if you had started a conversation with that random stranger, what if you said yes to the adventure, what if you went on the date?! I know that Heaven won’t consist of regret, but I do wonder if we’re kind of living one of those “choose your own adventure” books and we are in control of how vibrant or how dull our lives are. We could have a theological discussion about what that means – but let’s not, for now.
All that to say – we have so much choice. I just started reading a new book with a group of new friends and we decided to adopt one of the goals from the book: to take responsibility for how we choose to spend our time and energy. We have so much power and so much choice in our lives.
So I’m choosing to run. I’m choosing to say yes to depth in relationship, to the scary new things, to knowing Jesus even more personally each day. I’m choosing to read Scripture and figure out what I believe. I’m choosing to fill the space God has given me, to step into my life and stretch it to its limits. I’m choosing to seek JOY, to practice gratitude – because even when it is hard and it feels like wading through trash – there is always a sunrise on the other side. And even when we miss it? Even when it leaves us? We live by the light of its Creator. We’re never without the light.