During the Health Module of the Resilient Leader Project, I took an inventory of all areas of my life. Doing so I quickly realized that I was not as alive as I’d want to be in the area of my spiritual life. The more I worked on the inventory, the more I realized that, a year prior, I had given up running.
My husband had had a partial knee replacement surgery. It was an awful experience for both of us, with complications and longer-than-expected target gains. Watching, caring, and waiting for his knee (and soul) to heal, I decided in some less-than-conscious part of myself that I never wanted to go through that kind of pain (his knee replacement came from many years of running and athletic wear and tear), so I quit running. In this forfeiture, what I failed to realize is that, for me, running had come to serve as a spiritual practice. As I was saying no to running, I was giving up on a way that I connect deeply to God, myself, and the space between.
In the busyness of my world—jobs, kids, house, etc.—I can often lose connection to myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Running has been one way I could carve out time to be alone (quiet, still) and to connect body, soul, and spirit: this trinity of my being coming together with the triune God. Running had served as a time when I could pray, hear from God, and take time to challenge the ways I often hold myself back by choosing to believe in the impossibility (rather than the possibility) of certain things.
“In the busyness of my world I can often lose connection to myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
Years prior, when I was running consistently, I remember noticing that I could never get past three miles logged in any given session. Everytime I would get close, I would stop running, or I would get sick. I seemed to circle this track for at least a year. Finally, as I was talking to my therapist about this supposed limitation, she asked, “What is it like to be in your body, to connect with your body in that way?” In that moment, I knew I was being invited by God to challenge myself to connect my body to the energy within it in ways I simply hadn’t before: to put down the mental barrier I had believed true in regards to running. So in that very moment, I decided to sign up for my first half marathon.
By that time my husband had already completed a number of half marathons, so I asked him to help me get on a program, and I began to run. Since I had small kids at the time, I ran in a gym on a treadmill for most of the training. As I look back now, I have no idea how I handled that level of monotony. But on the day of the race, I was as ready as I was going to be. As I made it through the race and ran that last mile, I was deeply aware of the ways I had been holding myself back not just in running but in life, and a deep sense of joy set in as I accomplished something I had previously deemed impossible. Crossing the finish line, I was overwhelmed at the goodness that could come from stepping into my fears and listening to the invitation from God to run.
I believe spiritual health can come in all different shapes, colors, and forms. God reveals God’s self in all things: the smile of a child, the wag of a dog’s tail, the rising and setting of the sun, the movement of human bodies through time and space, the reading of a good poem, and much, much more. Maybe it’s only natural to limit our experience or view of God, if for no other reason than we get tired and we look for the ease of paring down the options to a short list of predictable alternatives. And maybe it’s also natural to need to return or to inject a sense of novelty into the perceived security that comes from having a certain behavioral repertoire. Sometimes we need to slow down and notice; other times (as was the case for me) we need to put on our running shoes and accelerate.