Friday, October 22, 2010

Great Expectations

So I ran a marathon last Sunday and I was feeling pretty decent until mile 18 or so but by mile 21, my body didn’t want to run anymore. And I felt like crying…and I did start to cry a little bit, but I was afraid of doing the whole hyperventilation thing, so I slowed to a walk, ate a few skittles, and said to myself, “You cannot cry. You cannot cry.” Then, trying to use positive thinking, I thought, “Come on…it’s only 5 miles. Five miles is nothing.”

But you know what? Five miles is something when you are out of fuel . And five miles is something when you really want to give up. And five miles is something when all you really want to do is sit down and cry.

So I kept going. I visited the extremely disgusting port-a-potty, I ate a few more skittles (after I got out of the port-a-potty), and I walked to the next water station where I got a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water. Then I drank some of the water, mixed the rest of it with the too-sweet Gatorade and I drank that too. Hoping for a “kick” from my sugar ingestion, I decided to run to the next mile marker.

Receiving no “kick”, but pushing on with heavy legs, I saw the big yellow balloon and a sign that said Mile 22. “Only a little more than a 5K now,” I thought, and I allowed myself to walk again. This time I sidled up to another walking runner and made small talk to pass the time. After a few minutes of this distraction, the other runner told me in no uncertain terms that she always ran alone and she really didn’t want to have a conversation with me. Ummmm…. “OK” I said cheerily, and I again began to run—aided by the little bit of adrenaline that my embarrassment had provided. Weird.

Mile 23 and 24 came and went, and the yellow balloons bobbed tauntingly in the wind, saying “You’re a slacker. You’re too slow!”, but I just ignored their cruel teasing and trudged on. I heard a man behind me wheeze, “25 is enough!” and I agreed.

Then I passed mile 25 and I was almost done. My skittles and my little pieces of peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar were of no use to me now, so I took the little snack bag (which had been tucked in my shorts the last 24.99 miles) out of its hiding place and threw it in the trash. I started counting the street signs because I knew that the finish line was on 4th Street. Then I willed myself to go to the next one…and then the next one…and then the next one…until I could see the long awaited sign that said “FINISH”. I ran slowly, slowly, slowly until my feet crossed the orange mat and I heard my name being announced over the loudspeaker. The end had finally come. My 3rd marathon was finished.

Someone at the finish ran up to me with a camera and said, “Congratulations! What an accomplishment! Let me take your picture so you can remember this day!” And I said, “You can take it, but I am not going to buy it.” I was discouraged and didn’t feel like I had done my best. I certainly did not want to commemorate that feeling.

I had trained for weeks for this and now I felt deflated—like I wished I could have pushed myself harder and farther. Sometimes, though, as I tell my kids, you just have a bad run. You never know when the “bad run” might occur or why it is “bad”. It just is and that’s that. I had a bad run. Period.

But I finished didn’t I? And in under 5 hours. Why couldn't I just be happy with that? Why did I care what others thought? And why couldn’t I just congratulate myself for pushing through?
Because I expected something different. I expected to have a “good run.” I expected NOT to struggle. And this is where the tension lies. My performance didn’t match my expectations and so I began to sulk. And I felt mad at myself and weak...and cheated.

Isn’t life like that, though? We expect God to provide us with the life we “deserve”. We expect that our life will be a “good run”. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, for no reason that anyone can find, our “run”, our situation, our circumstances turn out badly—not what we expected. And we sulk and we want to cry because the “running” has become so hard. And then, because the outcome doesn’t match the picture we have in our heads, we decide that everything is bad—that we got the short stick—that we deserve so much more because we “trained” so hard and did everything right.

But God always knows best and He always does right by us. When our outcomes don’t meet our expectations, it’s not God who needs to change, it’s us. It’s not our glory we’re here for; It is His.

So, next time I feel like giving up, I am going to try to change my paradigm. Rather than be distracted by my pain, and my inwardness, and my “heaviness”, I will remember His name and tell myself, “It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.” It’s all about Him. It’s all about Him. It’s all about Him. Then maybe my “bad runs” can be opportunities to run to Him.

“…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

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