My friend Courtney shared this story with me recently, and I asked her to please please write a guest post about it. We all imagine that magic bullet that will make us shine–her story of changing that paradigm inspires the heck out of me.
Sometime around the beginning of the year, my husband came home from a night at the local bar with friends and announced they all planned to run a marathon together. My first thought was, “Good on ya. I’ll hold a sign at the finish line.” Then I realized that somewhere deep inside, there was a crazy woman who wanted to run 26.2 miles. About three years ago I decided to learn to love running, and apparently the 5Ks and half-marathon I’d completed had, in fact, turned me into a runner.
Running doesn’t come naturally to me and I’m not the picture that comes to mind when the word “marathoner” is spoken. I need coffee with half and half to function in the morning, not 8 miles. But I can appreciate a long run with a steady pace and the feeling of accomplishment it brings. So I told my man and our friends I would run the Twin Cities Marathon (spanning Minneapolis to St. Paul), and some of the other gals signed up as well. We downloaded running apps and training schedules, and even created a Facebook group. It all seemed optimistic and fun, a great way to exercise and push the limits of my body.
As we trained, life happened. A new job for my husband, new schedules for our family, and my limits pulled right up to the table and threw their ante down with confidence. What had I done? Training runs became a reminder that I was slow. Slower than anyone else I ran with. Constant reminders of one’s weaknesses quickly take the optimism and fun out of any activity. I began to retreat from everyone in fear that I wasn’t enough. Good enough. Fast enough. Training enough. Running, which I used to find fun, wasn’t. I didn’t love running anymore, and I wasn’t sure when or how it happened.
We ran the marathon, and made it just under the time limit. My husband and I crossed the finish line together, hurting physically but glad to have made it. Still, something lurked in my heart. I used to tell young ladies who were impatiently looking for Mr. Right that as soon as they found him, if they weren’t careful, they’d just start longing for wedding bells. Once that happened, they’d want a baby, then another, then a house, then a minivan, and maybe one day, to run a faster marathon (I just added that last part). The problem wasn’t my circumstances or my marathon time, it was discontent. I didn’t love running anymore because I was expecting it to fill a void it can’t fill.
I expected that running a marathon would magically change me. It would make me special, beautiful, strong; but I am already those things. By the grace of God, he created me in His image. Special. Beautiful. Strong. Oh, for the grace to believe it! No achievement or failure can change our identity in Jesus. I want to cease striving, know that He is our God, and we are His people. And it is more than enough.
Let’s keep running that race.
Courtney Christensen is a wife, mother, runner and worrier. She lives in the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, three kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 12 chickens.