Sunday, October 21, 2012
What do you pray for when you run? Or, for my non-believing friends, what do you wish for? Sometimes, I wish for trivial things--like the next stoplight being green, the next hill being shorter, or the next mile being faster. Sometimes I pray for friends, or family, or things going on at work.
I know this is a blog about running (and urological problems), so I won't dwell too much on the details and theology of prayer. When I run, however, sometimes the run becomes a prayer itself. In the movie, "Chariots of Fire," the character portraying Eric Liddell says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."
Sometimes, not always, and not even often, I feel that way. God's pleasure isn't a "voice inside my head" feeling. I don't get divine instructions telling me how to structure my training plan, which race I should run, or how I should vote, but I feel it nonetheless. It's in the silence of my otherwise restless, overactive brain. My thoughts are still, and I'm simply being, experiencing, and observing.
When I am blessed with those runs, I feel a peace that passes understanding when I run. No matter how hard things seem--how sad, angry, or stressed I've been feeling, it all melts away. My run becomes a prayer of motion, of exertion, of inertia. For a little bit, nothing else matters. There's only the movement, the breath, the sun on my face. The oaks, the cottonwoods, the flocks of geese. The songs of birds and the hum of traffic--I observe them, but my mind is clear.
Words can't do it justice. Call it a runner's high--a rush of endorphins. Call it whatever you want, but it's real to me. And if it's all in my head, what does it matter? If it's just an illusion brought on by endorphins, by some pleasure center in my brain, who cares? If you don't believe that God is real, I won't tell you you're wrong. But I will tell you that I believe in a God that's real, a God that's alive, and a God that cares about humans. A God that feels our pain and our pleasure. I believe in a God that fills us with grace, grants forgiveness freely, and forgets all our mistakes.
Those runs don't happen often, but when they do, I know their grace. God listens to all his children's prayers--Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Jews, Atheists and agnostics, Mormons and Jehoveh's Witnesses. He even listens to those ready to kill in the what they think to be his name. He listens to those ready to be lined up and shot before denying God's name. He listens to the cries of children inside the womb and out. The tears of the old and the young.
Life is precious. Life is a gift. Today I'm going to go out and enjoy it on a run--I'll think about you while I'm there. God is love, and if you're using your god to hurt, kill, or hate, I'd like you to stop. I'll try to do the same.