It wasn't good. I hobbled through a couple of miles, and then headed home feeling worse than ever. "Why can't anything be easy for me?" I wondered. "I've done everything I can do. I've pushed through the training when all I wanted to do was curl up and feel sorry for myself and let the morning sickness take over. I've slowed down at the very time I wanted most to speed up. Why can't I just have a normal marathon experience? Why does it have to be THIS way -- what can I possibly learn about pushing through pain that I haven't learned already from my life as a mother?" I had faith that somehow, I'd complete the goal, as I'd been promised in a blessing, but as my mind went through how hard the last few months had been, I was caught up in how unfair it all was.
And it wasn't just the running; it was so many other areas in my life. The other burdens I carried felt very heavy that day. How much responsibility for our home, our yard, our family's routines, my children's development were on my shoulders. How much I had sacrificed to be a good mother to so many children. How hard it was sometimes to continue to add to our family in the face of opposition. How much I had given in exhaustion, in pain, in sleep, in the giving up of other things I wanted to do. How I had worked so hard to get my health in order and lose weight and then had those goals interrupted by this pregnancy. How hurtful some comments I had received had been. How lonely and misunderstood I felt at times. And on and on.
It just felt too heavy that the one thing I'd worked so hard for this year, to run a marathon successfully, seemed destined for disaster. Didn't I deserve a little bit of a break? Couldn't just this one thing go right for me?
I worked through that discouragement, sought for peace throughout that day, and felt more serenity and comfort on Friday.
Then Saturday, I ran the marathon. It wasn't the way I'd wanted it to be. It was more painful than I had hoped, I went much slower than I know I'm capable of (uninjured, that is) but the fact is, I RAN that marathon -- injured & pregnant -- and I loved the experience. I felt so blessed that I was able to do what I did, even without the tidy, perfect ending I'd pictured.
I knew I'd been blessed with tender mercies that day, and I've thought on that experience many times since, wondering if there was a deeper meaning in it for me.
I'm convinced there was. In the beauty of that day and the joy of completing something was a larger message for me, and it goes something like this:
You are not alone. God will carry you and allow you to do amazing things, if you only have the eyes to see them for what they are. You are doing all right. You have been so worried for so long about living up to your standards for yourself and your family that you have not been able to see past your imperfections to what you are accomplishing. You thought this was about fitness and strength and running at your full capacity. It's not. It's about adjusting to life as it comes and finding joy in the journey. It's about forgetting those impossible standards you've set for yourself and allowing yourself to walk when necessary without worrying about those who will judge you for being weak. It's about hobbling through pain at times. It's about feeling content with whatever progress you can make.
And most of all, it's about moving forward towards a far-off finish line, doing what you know you've been asked to without worrying so much about whether your efforts measure up to whatever standard you set for yourself. You'll get there. Not in the way you want nor with the ease and flow and consistency you desire, but you'll get there.
Don't give up.