The long road

I find a healing strength in being outside.

Out of doors, away from floors and ceilings and furniture. Close to fresh air and sunshine and creation. It brings me to deep thought and a clarity of thinking. It refreshes. Seeing God’s workmanship helps me put in perspective all of the circumstances that are under His rule.

The fresh air eases my mind, soothes my soul.

I’ve had many years of walking and running outside in the early mornings. It’s been much more than physical for me–the musing on scriptural truth during this alone time has grounded me, inspired me, and encouraged me. I have prayed and wept and grappled with doubt. I have gloried in the goodness of God.

All of my best thoughts come in the early hush of day.

A few years ago when several studies showed that interval training was actually better for the heart than longer, slower runs, I started doing intervals some days–sprints interspersed with walking. I began to love the short, fast runs.

But eventually I realized that almost all my runs had become shorter runs.

It had been quite awhile since I had just kept going. And when I did, I was surprised at how hard it was.

Physically–my breathing was heavy. Mentally–I was impatient and bored with just plugging along. I had lost my endurance.

I’m reminded that most trials are over quickly. They bring pressures that push us hard but then are gone. We can bear up under those sorts of things. We are sobered and stretched but not wearied. A burst of faith and answered prayer and then we are back to our comfortable living.

But sometimes a longer road stretches ahead. Trouble that will last awhile or trouble that is not going away. A disappointment, a grief, a diagnosis. A difficult relationship, a sorrow. A circumstance we cannot escape sitting heavy and close.

It takes discipline and perseverance and more than a little faith to keep moving forward. It takes commitment and grit to face the steep hills when you are already tired.

What is your long road? What wearies you, making it hard to breathe?

What impossible thing stretches out in front of you?

Some places feel too hard, and you would give almost anything to be done. To turn right around and sprint back to the before. I understand that longing.

But this appointed path is yours.

I’ve learned that long runs require a different pace. Steady and slower, one stretch at a time. It helps not to think about the distance yet to go. It helps to focus on the steps right in front of you.

Let go of the heaviness of regret or bitterness. Keep your eyes open to the beauty along the way–all the lovely, good gifts God gives. Let your heart be drawn to Him. Keep your face turned toward the Path Maker–the only One who knows the intricacies of the course. Let Him anchor you, nourish you. Let Him carry you when your strength is gone.

He gives sips of cool water from a living stream.

Allow joy to settle deep as you embrace your path. All of its valleys and tight places are uniquely yours. There is purpose in the running–perfecting your patience, proving your faith, preparing your heart. There is a prize to win. When you crest that final hill and the road opens up to reveal the finish line, you will be so glad you kept going.

There is not one step you will regret when you are finally home.

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31