Confessions & Grace

I have a really hard time recognizing how to stop my body from doing something that I will likely regret. This is a horrible combination along with the sport that I have chosen to be a part of; trail running.

The entire sport is built around patience. Many runners are locked into their shoes, on the trails of the world, for twenty, thirty, fifty miles at a time. That requires patience. It requires the knowledge on how to fuel while running, hydration, injury prevent and patience. A lot of patience. The hard truth is knowing that when you start trail running you really should not decide to sign up for the first 100 mile race you see. The likelihood of injury is extremely high, and without positive experiences, the probability of you coming back to the sport over and over and over decreases exponentially with time off your feet, time at the medical office, and time not doing what you love.

It is a serious threat that plagues the inner-workings of my own mind. How long can I balance on this thin thread of entertainment before I lose balance and finally fall? A friend (I use this term by its exact definition) spoke to me last week about grace. How we have to give ourselves grace when we’re doing something new, when we’re trying something exciting, and when we’re setting goals and expectations for ourselves. Something, a concept, that I am undeniable terrified of accepting.

Next weekend will be a 10 mile race in our area, I’ll run it with a smile because it is exactly one year from the first time I “toed the line” in a trail race. The excitement and truth sit within the same truth; it has been one year. I have been trail running for one year. I have had my life flipped around for the positive, for the first time, for a year. Why would I fear the concept of grace?

Ironically, grace through running is so similar to grace through faith for myself. The concept of Christianity is so perplexing at its systematic core; the idea that you do not have to do anything within this world to earn salvation. The belief stems that you are given grace because of the sacrifice of another life before your own. For anyone who struggles with the idea of having to earn something to grab approval, obtain reward, be given rest; grace is a term that is unsettling. Primarily because it does not make sense. I have struggled with the concept grace within my own faith, and I continue to struggle with it when looking at the running world.

If I give myself grace will I create excuses for my shortfalls? If I permit grace to exist will I work as hard as I currently do? Will I continue to push the threshold of my own path? Do I ignore grace because I foolishly believe that pain equates to growth in every instance?

I am terrified of the idea of grace. It has taken years for my to accept the theological approach in regards to Christianity. Within the running world; it will likely take just as long…if not longer. It’s a fault, it’s an error, it’s a mistake all on behalf of myself. Mentally I know exactly that I am in the wrong when looking upon the lines of this conversation point, but my heart absolutely disagrees. If I become injured; it is because I didn’t train hard enough, right? If I mentally feel burned out that is because I am not focused, yes? I will manipulate anything and everything to give me reason to continue to push, even when everything outside of my own existence is pleading me to cease. My mental conversations are so one-sided that it equally impressive and pathetic in the same…

I fear that if I don’t stop; I’ll never give my wife the physically appealing husband that she deserves. If I don’t make the goals; my students will not get to enjoy the insanity of my journey and dream of their own. If I don’t hit the distance that I want; I’ll never catch those that I want to run with. If I fail to increase my mileage I’ll become stagnate. If I don’t move; I’ll forget what I love, and I will lose what I have.

On top of struggling with the understanding and practice of grace; is also the understanding that I do not know how to stop. By no means was I born a runner, but I have to move. I have to feel my legs trudge through swamps, sands, up and down mountains, through the ice, snow, heat, rain; all of it. I am only alive when I’m in flight.

This my confession. I mentally do not think I deserve grace, and I understand it is a problem that I have created for myself. I understand that it is not truth; that as a new runner I am entitled to a lot of grace. Similar to being a first year teacher; I’m allowed to be a mess and make mistakes.

I know this is one of them. It is hard to put into words. My throat gets a lump in it just trying to process the known flaw. I cannot express in conversation what goes on in my head to where it would make sense to another individual. It isn’t that I am trying to go against the flow; it is just that I feel that I am preprogrammed to go a specific direction.

That direction doesn’t offer grace; it only offers false expectations that I place on myself at the expense and sadness of others.



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