I’m a runner. I may be slower than a turtle swimming in molasses during the winter, but I still fit the description. I’m not always sure why I’m a runner. I’m not any good at it, and I certainly don’t always enjoy it. Yet, it remains a part of me and if I neglect it, I feel guilty. If it’s been a while, I start hearing the voice of my old Marine Corps Drill Instructor in my head and that won’t let up till I get off my lazy butt and start trotting down the road again.
I think a lot when I run. If life gets stressful or deals me a particularly hard blow, I go for a run. Something about running helps me calm down and think things through. It’s my prayer time. I don’t pray in a closet, and I’m not big on public prayers either. I don’t raise my hands nor have I gotten down on my knees. I used to write out prayers in a journal, but I rarely do that anymore either. But when I run or take a long stenuous hike through the woods, that is when I think and that is the closest I ever get to a conversation with my creator.
My runs vary from moderate to stenuous, but I rarely return home with a dry spot on my shirt. There is a hill about a mile from where I live that I run up frequently. I have to run up a small hill to get to the larger one, and when it’s hot that hill presents quite a challenge to me. As I huff and puff up that hill sometimes it’s all I can do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My life has been a series of such hills.
When I lost my job a year ago last September, life became one gigantic hill.There was no work available in the town that I lived that could have possibly paid the bills we had. My only option was to drive a truck and be gone all the time. I suppose that lifestyle may suite a few people. As for me I would rather be dead then stuck in a cell on 18 wheels hundreds of miles from the people and things that I care about. When I’m on a hard run and I don’t know how long I can continue, I can usually stick things out if I know when it will end. Life doesn’t always have that luxury. Sometimes life can get so rough you feel like you are going to break if the pressure doesn’t lift. Some people do break, and I felt very close. But then I saw the top of the hill. Right when I felt like I was going to collapse, the road leveled off.
I’ve climbed many hills. I seek them out. Why? Because the view is incredible and I like a challenge. The journey is exhausting but when I reach the top of the hill, there is an incredible view where my strength is restored. As the run continues there is a decline which allows me to catch my breath and regain my composure. Often times I may experience a runner’s high or my second wind. There are more hills ahead, but now it’s like I’m warmed up and I can say, “bring em on; I’m ready.”
This past year has been a real struggle, and like the hills I run, I chose the course. I knew human nature, and I was well aware of the risk. There was no way to calculate the struggle or know if I had the endurance for the journey.
It’s been over a year since I lost my job. We’ve all moved, found new jobs, and picked up the broken pieces the best we could. The wounds have become scars now, and strength has been restored. The journey is once again enjoyable and we are building up our defenses for the unseen struggles ahead.
Yesterday, we placed membership with a congregation for the first time since we were removed from the church in Mena. This was not something we took lightly. There were several churches we’ve considered over the past year. I’m not a church hopper by nature and when I chose one, I stick with it until I can’t anymore. We’ve never sought perfection in a church, just acceptance. My main question is, “Can I be real here or will I be shunned for what I honestly believe?”
I think we have found such a place and more. We weren’t too keen on the idea of traveling 30 minutes away when there was a perfectly acceptable church just a mile from where we live. But when we started attending, it was increasingly obvious that this congregation was where we belonged and well worth the journey.
Sunday my wife and I not only stood before the congregation to place membership, we also stood up there together to recite a portion of the Sermon on the Mount that we had memorized to go with the morning lesson. Standing in front of a congregation was nothing new to me, but this was a totally new experience for Paula. She was so panic struck that her pulse went up to 120 bpm, just before we got up there. But she did it, and I am so proud of her for that. This was a difficult hill for her, but she made it.
This was also new because it was the first Church of Christ congregation that we have been a member of where she would have been allowed to recite those verses before the congregation. The role of woman in the church remains a touchy subject for Churches of Christ. In fact, it was my study of this subject more than anything else which culminated in my termination from my last pulpit position a year ago. But this was a very minor factor in our placing membership.
Our choosing a church home is signifacant to me because it was like the final step in the restoration process. Once again, I can feel like I have a home again. I have a job which gives me great meaning. I am close to the people that I love and I can once again enjoy doing the things that I love to do. My wife is once again my constant companion. We get on each other’s nerves, we disagree often, and we are complete opposites. But nobody loves me better, nobody accepts me more, and there is nobody I want more in my life than her.
The run continues. There are lots more hills ahead. One day there may be one that defeats me, but for right now I’m feeling strong again and there is a sense of peace and satisfaction.