I promise you that I’m not a masochist! If anything, when I have been pondering my thoughts as of late, the last thing I’d really want as a title to my thoughts is “To Know Pain is to Know Gain.” Sheesh!
But this is where I am at these days…in brutal and humbling honesty of heart. A friend of mine wanted me to update my blog and I was thinking, “With what?! Debbie Downer-isms? That’s no fun…”
Yes, this is where I’m at…right at this place of tension, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. [Womp womp, as the camera zooms in on my distorted smile (This is for all who know the Debbie Downer skits from SNL)]
The best way I can explain it all is how things are going with my marathon training. Yes, for those of you who don’t know, I began training for the Chicago Marathon this summer. Also, for those of you who don’t know, my marathon experience has been…well…let’s say for lack of a better phrase…difficult? The one marathon I decide to run in Chicago is the one in the 30 years of existence that the race was actually SHUT DOWN. Yes, it is kinda comical but it surely wasn’t at the time. Since they ran out of water that year because the temperature was ridiculously hot, I crossed the finish line extremely fatigued and in a lot of pain because my body had started to shut down. So let’s just say, I had NOOOOO desire to ever train for another : ) For more about this, please refer to this previous post: Injuries in the Race
So why on earth would I do it now?! Haha, I don’t know! All I can say is that I love being active and running outside is one way I can express this joy of mine. I’ve always been active, whether in team sports, cycling or hiking… I just LOVE it! I can’t say I always love it during the moments of rigor, but the feeling after some hard activity can be bliss (especially if you have cookie dough ice cream awaiting you!) (PS-Some other sports I love and have been known to go crazy with: 4-square tournaments, X-treme hopscotch and of course, synchronize swimming. ; D).
I truly had no intention of running another marathon, it just sort of came together. I had been running for fun again and started setting goals for mileage. As I increased up to 8 miles, I thought, “Wow, the last time I ran this was during marathon training in 2007!” That put the bug in my jug and got my wheels turning. Well, lo’ and behold a friend of mine actually offered to take care of my marathon bib if I wanted to run it — how could I say no?! What’s ironic is that as soon as I said “Yes!” and began training, my body said “NO!!!!”.
And that’s when the pain began. It was on my 14 mile run when my right calf muscle seized on me. No matter how much I stretched, it screamed STOP! So I took a week off, iced and rested that calf. I was definitely concerned because missing a week of running is no bueno. My friends encouraged me and kept saying, “You’ll be good for the next run on the following Saturday. This doesn’t mean you’re out.” So, the next Saturday was a 10 mile run and right around mile 7, my other calf started to do the exact same thing – UGH! I had to stop and walk the last mile.
I was so discouraged, so upset and in pain. Why my legs Lord? Why now? There were so many discouraging thoughts as I thought about the series of events leading up to this point: I didn’t even want to run this race, it kinda fell into my lap and now I’m injured? What’s up with that? What’s wrong with my body? On and on the questions went. I finally went to see a Dr. who then referred me to a physical therapist. By a true miracle, I was able to see the physical therapist and after my initial exam, she went through the laundry list of what is wrong with my legs. Basically, there’s a whole lot : ) Then she asks, “Shelly, do you have any questions for me?” Well…yeah I do!! I’m not just taking off work and sitting in your office for nothing! As calmly and politely as I could, I asked, “Well, so what does this mean for the marathon?” And she smiled, knowing I would ask. What I did not expect was how she responded to me, with a question of her own:
Shelly, what is your ultimate desired outcome of your physical therapy sessions?
The question seemed to suspend in air for a moment as I pondered it. In my head, I really wanted to run this marathon….but thinking about it more, I knew what my answer needed to be and truly more than anything, what I most desired.
Hima (that’s her name), I just want to be healed. More than anything, I just want the pain to go away and be healed, even if it means letting go of the marathon.
She smiled and said, “With an attitude like that, you’ll go really far Shelly.” And that’s when I began to realize how, just like the last time I trained for the Chicago marathon, the Lord is using my training again to remind me of the spiritual race that I’m daily running in. I know it might sound crazy or overspiritualized, but truly this season of physical therapy is so indicative of what I’m going through in my day-to-day-living-out-this-faith-journey with God my Father. Maybe better put, I’m going through Spiritual Therapy.
I’ll be honest, I feel like I’ve been getting a good pummeling through various circumstances and trials for a while now…like for years. And I know I’m not the only one – we all go through really difficult seasons. More recently in the last year, my faith has been stretched, re-stretched and then held at that point of tension over extended periods of time. And this is also part of my journey now: Remaining Under [hupomene in the Greek: perseverance: see James 1:3,4] the circumstances and trusting completely in who my heavenly Father is at the core, even if circumstances around me do not change. This is truly not easy. I feel constrained by life and held at an extremely taut position. Because of the constraints, the Holy Spirit is bringing to light areas of my heart and mind that need God’s healing, God’s Word and it requires my trust in Him – daily.
This is just like what I’m going through right now in physical therapy. There are many deep tissue injuries and knots in my calf muscles and on top of that, there are other muscles that are very weak and unused (My physical therapist said I have no glutes!!! I knew I was kinda flat back there…). Because of all this, over many years of recreation, there’s A LOT of healing that needs to take place. Again, in my finite understanding, I thought healing was a “zap” word. Or maybe that’s what I hoped it would be – like, do something real quick so I can run again. NOT SO. Healing takes time and to get rid of pain, sometimes means you have to endure more pain. Let me explain…Hima began a deep tissue massage, which we now affectionately call Deep Tissue Massacre. Pretty much each physical therapy session I arrive and Hima must massacre (massage) all the knots, tears and strains in both my legs. To say it’s painful is an understatement…it is BLINDINGLY PAINFUL. She rubs her thumbs up my calf until she feels a knot and I yelp in pain. The only way to heal this damaged tissue is to PRESS into the knot – the thing that’s already causing pain, hold her thumb there for several minutes, rest a bit and then DO IT OVER. Now I hope you’re feeling this with me…I have many knots in one leg AND I have 2 injured calf muscles. Do the math and please cry with me (misery loves company)!! I realize to come out healed, stronger and pain free I must remain under this pain and trust the pain is bringing about my greatest desire. It’s not easy. It hurts like mad. I know I must let go of the marathon and any prospect of working out and just remain under and allow Hima to work. But I also need to do my daily exercises and stretches too that she gives me. Again, this is so much like my faith walk with the Lord: Remain under His hand and what He’s allowed, let Him tear down the lame things so that He can rebuild, heal and strengthen. I must seek Him daily, stay near to Him, wait upon Him, worship Him for who He is and trust His heart.
So the Holy Spirit poses the same question – What do you desire most from this season Shelly? Above things changing, I really do desire the Lord’s greater purposes to be accomplished. I know I must “remain-under” it all for however long and trust Him, and to trust Him is to only lean on Him, and NOT my finite understanding. And this is a daily, hourly, and at times, a minutely choosing to trust.
I praise God that His Word is speaking to me in this season. There are so many verses that God is washing over me with. I would like to share a few because I very much desire that you’d come away encouraged if you’re going through a similar season. I’ve been studying Joseph’s life and I would say, read through Genesis 37-50 and allow yourself to identify with this man’s life. God has used him and his “remaining-under” to let me see YHWH’s heart and sovereignty in the midst of allowing hardship. Also, Hebrews 12: 7-12 has come to mean so much to me. Read it in different versions and don’t think of “discipline” as how you view punishment, but think of it as accomplishing God’s purposes. And lastly, just a promise from the word, that meant a lot to me after my mom passed away, during some battles in college and possibly even more so now:
Come, let us return to the LORD.
For He has torn us,
and He will heal us;
He has wounded us,
and He will bind up our wounds.He will revive us after two days,
and on the third day He will raise us up
so we can live in His presence.
Let us strive to know the LORD.
His appearance is as sure as the dawn.
He will come to us like the rain,
like the spring showers that water the land.
Our pain will be our greatest gain. I’m standing on that today. God never allows these seasons unless there is something greater to bring forth, which will ultimately be His glory displayed in and through us~