When we got married, something drastic changed in my life: we started jogging.
I had never really been a runner before. If I was honest, it was dull and sweaty and tiresome. But, as the budget tightened and we couldn’t afford the gym membership any longer, we started to jog together. Sometimes, we would jog several times a week. And while I didn’t really enjoy it, he did.
I’ll be honest: it has grown on me. Where I used to drag my feet and take a half an hour to get into my work out gear to postpone the pain, I have caught myself, on more than one occasion (okay, only twice) to be the one suggesting we lace up and find a good trail. I enjoy the recreational companionship it provides us: allowing us to be doing something shoulder-to-shoulder, provoking meaningful conversation and a few good laughs. While I didn’t love the hard work or sweat, I valued the chance to connect with my husband by joining him in something he enjoys.
Since my late introduction to running, it has been something I only do when I do it with my man. But recently, that has started to change.
We are, currently, in a difficult season of faith. We believe we have obeyed God’s call and followed Him into a new season of life, but everything has been coming up short. At first, I asked God to provide. Now, I am begging and pleading with Him to do so. And it seems that no matter how much I cry, or ask, or throw myself in faith on God, nothing changes. I have prayed with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord,” and have sat with him in the despair of God’s seeming forgetfulness. And each morning as I wake to the day, I am met with the unrelenting task of trusting God again. Lately, the dailyness of faith feels agonizing. It is hard work, and my stamina is wearing thin.
And there have been times when we are in the throws of life when I have wanted to go for a run by myself. Anyone who knows me should be dumbfounded by this confession, because I’m no runner. Even so, there have been times where I have needed to run by myself so that I could feel in the present moment – physically – the way I feel in life: tired and alone.
That there is something necessary, something vitally important about putting yourself in a physical space that resembles your spiritual reality. It is as if every tangible thing around us validates every intangible thing going on inside of us. As we survey the terrain that all too poignantly reminds us of the territory that lies within, we are brought gracefully to the reality that the struggle is not just inside of us. When my feet hit the pavement, my lungs gasping for air, and I know home is still at a long distance, my heart cries, Yes! This is what it feels like! This is what I’ve been trying to say!
I find that long seasons of struggle can feel like what C.S. Lewis described as, “always winter and never Christmas.” These March days I look out my window at the frost-ridden ground, and nothing feels more appropriate than calling this season of spiritual waiting, “winter.” Winter is dry and barren – nothing grows and nothing thrives. The biting air seeps through my sleeves and pierces every vulnerable chink in my winter armor. Despite my best resolve to conceal my fingers in my pockets or to pull my hat around my ears, the hollowness of the season stops me short. My eyes fight the arid wind, and tears come unbeckoned.
Sometimes, in the midst of my own spiritual winter, I step outside into the barrenness of a dead Colorado winter-worn field. I do this to remind myself that winter living is not only inside of me, and to remind myself that spring will come again. And there, in that field of dead grass, with the wind whispering its empty tune as it whips past my ears, I remember: the winter is real, and the winter will end.
So, find your space. Find your place that resembles everything going on your heart and head. Sit in a dark room, or take a long walk by yourself. Find a space in which it is clearly evidenced around you that this struggle of faith is real, and it is hard. And there, be reminded that the lights will come on, you will run into a friend, and be poignantly and painfully reminded that joy comes in the morning.