Thursday, September 22, 2011

Perfection pending: the message of the marathon

Two days before I ran my marathon, I was feeling very low. I was filled with anxiety about managing 26.2 miles on a injured knee, overwhelmed with some private struggles, and discouraged by the workload of raising a large family and caring for my other responsibilities. I woke up in the early hours of the morning and couldn't go back to sleep. After a few hours of tears and prayers and seeking peace, I went out for a run to see how my knee was doing.

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.


Courtney said...

THANK YOU!!! YOu have no idea how much I needed this today- I too just want curl up on the couch and let life be.... thank you or your words of encouragement.

Angie said...

very tender. thanks for sharing. It is always comforting to hear words of uplift and feel how much our Father in Heaven loves and is involved in our daily lives if we will just see.

Diane said...

I am sorry you have had hurtful comments. I think you are amazing at everything you do, and I am glad that I found you through blogging and have some one to talk about big family life with. And I think it is AMAZING that you ran a marathon while having 8 small children and being 15 weeks pregnant!!! That may not have been your ideal way to do it, but it sure shows how strong you really are.

Natalie said...

I love this post, Christina. I read it when you first posted it and it has been on my mind since. You are amazing, but it does my heart good to know of your struggles. Not that I relish your pain=) Just, it's encouraging to know that even you, supermama that you are, have things you're working through. It wasn't easy, but you DID it! I love the lesson you're taking away. Thanks for sharing.

3in3mom said...

just what I needed to hear! I am so grateful you are my friend. I am grateful you've been able to have the family you have and pray you'll continue to have the strength you need when you need it.

Thanks for sharing your ups and your downs.

Love ya, C

Maryanne said...

Thanks for this great message, Christina! I am very much inspired by who you are and all that you do.

Tracy said...

Congrats! I've had some slow-down-and-breathe moments lately, as well. They can be very hard. But you are totally awesome for accomplishing your goal and learning from the experience and finding joy in it! Two thumbs up!

Amber said...

Wow! I think you are amazing! It is funny how hard we are on ourselves not acknowledging our strengths, just seeing our shortcomings. Life is definitely a journey and not a destination, and sometimes it's just plain hard. Way to go to learn something from it!!

Corine said...

Oh my gosh... I REALLY NEEDED THIS! Thank you so much!!!! I was really overwhelmed, and received a blessing. In it, I was told to seek balance, but not worry about perfection. That sounds do-able to me. And I like your reminder that in life, things will be hard, and I may not accomplish my goals with the ease and flow or even the consistency that I desire - but I will accomplish them! THAT is what matters. Honestly, would we ever set a goal to do something that is EASY? If something is easy, then it is not an accomplishment. Life is only a platform for learning and growth and accomplishments if it is a struggle. Life may not always be easy, but as long as we keep on moving forward, we will make it sister!!!! :D

Corine said...


Corine said...

And WAY TO GO!!!!


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