If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love to run. I find that the desire to run comes easily to me. I know it’s probably not common, but it really seems like a privilege to wake up in the early hours of the morning and fill my lungs with crisp morning air.
I am now able to call running a privilege, but in the past I saw it as a chore. It was a task I thought I had to do everyday, and I slowly lost all enjoyment of running because of this. I subconsciously knew I had to run because I had to keep moving to avoid my problems, the biggest one being that I was unhappy. I was searching for happiness in the doing.
I found happiness and satisfaction by how much I could do in a day. So when I wasn’t moving or making progress, where was my joy? I would crumble into a ball of anxiety and think of all the ways that I was a failure. I had to run. I had to keep this momentum going.
“Just keep running and at least that way you’re moving. Slow progress is better than no progress”… These are the mantras that would frequent my brain. But once I stopped, I faced reality.
Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you while you keep still.”
When I was still, I felt stuck. It was such an uncomfortable feeling because for so long I was running. Running is therapeutic to me. I used it as a tool to help reduce any anxiety I felt. But slowly this tool turned into a weapon where I was running myself into self destruction.
About a year ago I started having pain in my foot when I was running. I ignored the pain and continued to run on it.
“It’s probably nothing, I should just finish this run and I’ll rest tomorrow.”
And run on it.
“Well, it doesn’t hurt that bad, I could run on it a few more times.”
And run on it until I couldn’t even walk on it. Then I was in a boot. For about six weeks, I was forced not to run. I had (stupidly) ripped this privilege away from myself.
It was almost impossible for me to process the idea that I would be still for what seemed like an eternity. Not being able to run for six weeks? Yeah, no way, I’ll find a way out of this one. No part of me could accept the fact that I had injured my foot and it needed time to heal. My gut reaction was to ask, “How can I run away from this stressful, anxious, terrible situation? I must still be able to somehow.” But I literally couldn’t run away this time!
I realize now that that’s how I handle all stressful, unwanted life situations:
“How do I get out of this?”
“Where is the best place to run and hide?”
My brain is wired to run. I would only be flattering myself if I said I was a fighter – to tackle situations head on. No. My instinct is to run and run far, far away.
This summer, God wanted to work on that with me. He no longer wanted the answer to all of my problems be “well if I was in a cooler city then I wouldn’t have these problems,” or “if I lived in a quaint beach town then I would be happier.” This has always been my default: the grass in greener anywhere else and if I could only get there, everything would be perfect.
Another important thing to know about me is that I love summer (#lovesummerhateeverythingelse). I love everything about this season; the days are longer and warmer, the sun shines brighter, there’s more time to spend with friends, responsibilities dwindle, I could go on and on.
But this summer was a learning lesson. Out of state internships fell through, potential jobs in “cooler cities” didn’t work out, and the reality of staying at home settled in.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my home. I love my family and friends that live here in my hometown with me. But coming home feels like I’m settling. Like I’m stuck. And when I feel stuck, I panic.
“How do I get out of here?”
“What do I have to do to get out of here, to leave right now?”
But running is not the answer to being stuck. Sometimes we need to settle in and be “stuck” because He has something to teach us, right where we are.
I’m still learning how to not have the urge to run away from stillness and quiet. It’s my default to think I need to be going, going, going to be worthwhile. But God’s teaching me slowly but surely that I already am all that he needs, by just being. I don’t have to run to prove anything, but I get to — for that joyful feeling where the morning air seeps into my lungs and I feel alive.
“Many of us, myself, included, considered our souls necessary collateral damage to get done the things we felt we simply had to get get done – because of other people’s expectations, because we want to be known as highly capable, because we’re trying to outrun an inner emptiness. And for a while we don’t even realize the compromise we’ve made. We’re on autopilot, chugging through the day on fear and caffeine, checking things off the list, falling into bed without even a real thought or feeling or connection all day long, just a sense of having made it through.”
– Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect
words and photo by Megan Peters