Sunday, October 21, 2012

Runner's Prayer

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.

Happy running!


Stephanie Jones said...

This is beautiful.

Willie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Willie said...

The moments of peace, serenity, grace and also hoping for the green light is what I miss most due to this injury/condition that I've been diagnosed with, so thank you for this. I was able to run, well it was more of a shuffle and for those 20 short minutes I was able to experience a feeling of grace again. I didn't want to let it go. I didn't want it to end.

I don't attend church regularly as my long runs used to be my time to to pray, question life, trust in a higher power. What I am holding on to now is faith. Faith that I've been given this challenge for a reason. I am grateful for what I have received, to have been able to run for the prize.

I needed this even though it made me sad for the moment, but I know at the end of the day when I think of this post again I'll feel stronger.

TCHusker - Nate said...

Thank you all for reading this. After going to Lutheran schools my whole life, where sharing my faith was "easy," now, it's not so comfortable. I think that's a good thing. I'm trying to get better at listening to others, and their experiences with the divine. I have a firm belief that what God did through Jesus gives me salvation--that it gives salvation to the whole word. There's much more that I don't know than I do know, but I do know that we're all blessed to experience tiny moments of grace on earth--a reflection of God's love in a dimly lit mirror.