The clouds wisp along the sky like cotton candy in rosebud pink, salmon and peach colors. It is early morning. I pound the concrete with sure steps and even breaths.
I have started running again.
I have only run but a time or two in the nearly nine years since I was pregnant, and sick, with my first child. My sister asked me to run a 5K in July and it is the perfect motivation to get me going.
Yet along with the beauty of sunrises and crisp morning air, has come the pain and scars of three falls.
The first time I fall is on a sidewalk in Colorado. I need four stitches in my chin. I know, OUCH. The second time is along a path in Pennsylvania. It is only a skinned knee. The third time is on another sidewalk in Orlando, where I have just moved, and I manage to skin my leg and shoulder badly.
I know what some of you are thinking: ‘Please, for your safety, stop running.’
I hear you. But I can’t.
You see, it has been quite a year. It is a year which has brought us back to the States from overseas. It all happens in an unexpected, shocking, what-will-happen-next kind of way. And in the aftermath, running is a place of worship where I rise from ashes to boldly declare, ‘I am alive and I am well.’
The third time I fall, I am running with a new friend. She asks me what she can do, and I say, ‘can we please, please just keep running.’ I tell my husband the same thing after the first fall, but the crimson overflowing my cupped hand tells me I cannot.
I am resolute in my desire to not let these falls define me. I finish the run with rivulets of blood running down my leg. After this fall, I give myself a week to heal. There is some fear and the ‘what if’s’ as I think about running again.
So, how do I do it? How do I keep running after I have fallen and fallen badly, multiple times?
1) I learn to trust. Am I klutzy? Sure. More prone to falling? Probably. But these falls are also accidents. I hit the wrong spot and its uneven concrete. My body is also adjusting to the stride of running. This makes it easier for me trip. And when I step out to run, I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again. But, I trust that I can do this and go out to meet another dawn.
2) I learn from the details of my falls. My worst falls have been on sidewalks. As I re-examine where I fell, I see the uneven squares which I was not careful to notice before. So I develop the discipline of examining the cracks of the sidewalk and stepping over where it is not smooth. At first it is a bit cumbersome, but now it is second nature.
3) I learn to let go. I cannot change those missteps. I cannot make the wounds heal instantly. There are scars in each place that I cannot make to disappear. I have been angry and sad and wondered why God let me fall when I have already had such a year. But, in the end, I have let go of each stumble and hurt so that I can move forward.
It is good and right to keep running. But it is also foolish to do so forgetting I have fallen flat on my face and smacked my chin hard on very unforgiving concrete. I know, OUCH!
While living overseas or experiencing transitions, there are certain to be many falls. Often they are small. But sometimes they are big. And there is acute pain, wounding and scarring. It comes with newness. Our bodies, all of us really, are adjusting. There are plenty of cracks and bumps which make it easy to stumble, or flat-out fall.
And these falls, the crisis, the things we never want to live again, are integral to our ability to keep running (or walking) forward. Living with our eyes open to what really happened, or is happening in ourselves, others and the environment, is incredibly freeing.
Every tendency might be to keep going and never acknowledge the fall. This can be very good as far as sheer guts, will and determination, but it only leads to more falling. Or the tendency might be to live in fear of falling again. So we do not continue on the path, seeking to protect ourselves from further pain. Yet, this will lead to potentially worse falls or sinking in a pit right where we are.
But, if we recognize the falls for what they are and yet continue on the road before us, we will do it as someone who is wiser and stronger. We will live with our eyes and hearts open, unashamed and in the full light of day as we see our anxieties and fears healed. The things we thought would defeat us will become small, and we will keep running beholding skies feathered in glory.
How about you friend? Have you fallen while running? How have you kept going?