I always forget that running gives me a great opportunity to think and meditate. Today I was back at it again, hot pink running shoes laced up and my toddler strapped into the second-hand running stroller, and I’ve come back with some thoughts.
It’s Valentine’s Day and I was feeling a touch bitter, not only because I’m single and there are couples all around me making cutesy Instagram posts but because this is around the time last year that my ex husband decided to tell me we were getting a divorce. No better time to end a marriage than a holiday celebrating love, right? I was feeling less than thrilled. Downright grumpy, even. Valentine’s Day…. Bah humbug. Commercial nonsense meant to make single people feel miserable. Grumble grumble grumble.
On my drive to and from school, I asked God why He let me feel lonely and how He expected me to cope. Yes, I’m taking classes and working and trying to be a good mom, but where’s the end goal? How am I supposed to sustain myself? How am I supposed to eventually live on my own? And of course, as God often does, He sends me the “My grace is sufficient for you” verse. Today, I was having trouble giving it a hearty amen. “It doesn’t feel sufficient, God. You’ve given me a set of trials and given my family a set of trials that I just don’t think we’re cut out for. I don’t think we can do it.” I wanted to hear a verse that said something like, “Oh yeah, it’s okay, I’ve got a spouse waiting right around the corner for you and your family is about to come into a large inheritance of one million dollars! Just hang in for another day, shipping said it’ll be there by the 15th.” But that’s not in my Bible. Instead I remembered the verse I put on my Christmas card. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I confess that, even after all that encouragement, I was still grumbling as I wrestled an equally whiny almost-two-year-old into the stroller for the run. But soon we were off and I was breathing deeply. And then we got to the hill… I hate hills. Physical hills, mental hills, emotional hills. They’re hard and they take everything out of you. I’m always looking up at the top and it always feels like no matter how hard you push yourself, the top is always far away. Today I did something different though. I watched where I put my feet. I kept my eyes on those ostentatious shoes as I kept running, sometimes looking at the curb along side me so that I didn’t veer into the middle of the road, but I kept my eyes fixed on the task at hand. And before I knew it, I was cresting the top.
It is good to have an end goal, as goals give us direction. But we cannot be blinded by it. When we stare at the top of the hill, it seems so daunting. Terrifying. How can we possibly make it? The idea of putting foot in front of the other seems ridiculous when you’re staring at what seems like an unachievable goal. But God’s grace doesn’t transport us from the bottom of the hill directly to the top; God’s grace sustains us as we climb. If we keep the goal in our mind’s eye, but focus on the tasks He has set before us today, we will come to the top of that hill. Life’s hills are much longer than the physical hill at the end of my street, but God’s unfailing love is also much greater than my limited lung capacity.
Christian girl, struggling today… I don’t know what hills God has put in your life. But I do know that He will see you through it. The love that nailed your sins to the cross will carry you through a loveless world. I know that when I’m feeling tired and worn out, I immediately go to feeling like I’m unloved (and commercial ideas of romantic love do not help that unloved feeling). But this couldn’t be farther from the truth! We are so loved and our God has a plan! We don’t know what’s at the top of that hill, but He does and He’s given us the strength and grace that we need to push through and get to the top.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Rejoice in the perfect love that casts out fear! And maybe have some chocolate too, it all goes on sale tomorrow.