I’m tapping my foot back and forth, staring out at a rain-soaked airport tarmac. My body is in Newark, New Jersey, but my mind is far away.
It’s back in September 2016, reeling in the news of a double stress fracture and a discouraged heart. Suddenly, it’s in the winter of 2017 and I’m swimming lap. Stroke after stroke, I churn up the mixture of tears and chlorine. Wanting to feel numb.
I’m sitting at terminal A26 watching the sun rise. But I feel the the darkness of the past like a faint tickle on my throat.
It causes me to wonder: What would I be without adversity? If you strip away the accolades and achievements and find the core of their making, it is nothing short of God’s grace and arduous battles. From the 2013 hospitalization to the hours of getting back into shape after each injury, my collegiate running career has been marked by adversity.
And I’m finally coming to terms with the results of that adversity.
I’m sitting here in New Jersey and I’m not ashamed of an 11th place finish at the BIG EAST Indoor Track Conference. I’m grinning a little as I think of my collegiate debut in the 4×8, just last night, and how it wasn’t all that fast. I’m flat out smiling as I remind myself that my performance makes me no less a runner, no less a human being.
Could it be that this train wreck of a college athletic career, was actually salvaged? That, instead of flying off rail, God graciously redirected me and restored what was lost? At first, I thought “no.” Clearly He hadn’t restored anything because I never ran the college times I dreamed of and I never lived up to that potential. I never stood atop a podium or crested the “Top 10 Butler Times” list in my event.
Yet, when God says He restores, I don’t think it is in the way I initially anticipated. God’s restoration goes far deeper than mere achievements or medals. In the past four years, He has wrenched me free from the slavery of perfection and control. I’ve often written about how this has played out in my personal life, but it has also been a large part of my running. At one point, I was terrified to race, for fear of failure. I lived in shame of who I wasn’t and what I hadn’t done.
Then God intervened.
He restored the joy I had for running. He restored my confidence. He restored the thrill of competition, the intense pang for victory that sets my feet ablaze when they toe the line. He did all that, for me. Some of it came about by way of miracle; most of it, by way of trial. Yet, He gave me renewed strength, deep relationships, and otherworldly determination.
I think instantly of Simon Peter, whom Jesus warned. Jesus said that Satan was trying to tear Peter and the disciples away from Jesus. Satan was testing them, attempting to choke out their faith:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat,” Jesus says.
“But I have prayed for you, Hannah, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Through the intercession of Christ, my train wreck was redirected. By faith, I experienced the elation of a college cross country and track career. And I experienced it in a healthy way. What’s more: I gained incredible resolve, empathy, and humility through my trials.
What now, you might ask? Well, I keep running, for sure! My next challenge is the half-marathon. But more importantly: I honor Jesus’ command. I strengthen my brothers. I pull along others with a message of true identity and audacity.
I keep running the race.