I have been running pretty much since I was 12 years old, on and off, but very much on for the last 15 years. Even ran the Virgin London Marathon in April 2010, a defining moment for any human being. Preparing for my 5 hours and 26 minutes of personal glory meant training through rain, sleet, snow and ice over the months of December to February, then revelling in the changing of the seasons as winter made way to spring.
The dreaded winter runs
Yet every year, I absolutely dread starting my winter runs. I mean really dread. I am a child of the sun through and through, born in Zimbabwe and raised across the Caribbean. How I have survived nearly 30 years in England is anyone’s guess. But that’s another story.
For the past 2 weeks, since the clocks went back and the temperatures dipped, I have found every reason why I couldn’t and shouldn’t run: It’s too dark so it’s not safe. Got to get to work extra early today so no time to run. I’m just getting over a cold (which finished 3 weeks ago). I didn’t lay my clothes out last night and it’s going to take too long to find them. I’ll go tomorrow. I really can’t be bothered.
Then I realised that all week I had been fearful of a lot of stuff. I was worrying about my parents’ health even though they were actually chilled about things. I was getting wound up about my son’s seemingly lackadaisical attitude towards preparing for his entry exams in 2 months, even though he was obsessed with getting into high school. A couple big projects at work just weren’t progressing quickly enough and so I was actually dreading even looking at them. I was putting off having a conversation with a really challenging individual about their really challenging attitude and now I was avoiding them altogether. I was feeling pretty below par all week, then started getting annoyed with myself as really my life was nothing to be miserable about at all, especially considering the crap a whole load of other people have to face.
Fear of failure
Then as I started my morning devotions today the penny dropped…and made a loud clang. First of all the title of today’s ‘UCB’s Word For Today’ devotional was about exactly what I had been experiencing all week: fear. And the first few sentences read:
‘Let’s take a look at some of our most common fears and how we can overcome them. Fear of Failure. This is the most common fear of all, and it keeps us from fulfilling any vision God may give us.’
I hadn’t run properly for about 3 weeks and it was now all dark and cold and wet and yucky. I was fearful of the pain from the blast of the freezing air on my cheeks, the vasospasm of the blood vessels in my fingertips even through my lined gloves and the resistance of my thighs as I willed them to step up, move fast and get it all over and done with. I was fearful of not being able to comfortably finish a run after my 3-week hiatus. I had totally forgotten the lesson that God had taught me all those years ago as He had given me the strength, the will, the resilience and the stubbornness to train in some of the harshest weather there was to achieve my personal goal. He had shown me the stuff I was made of and here I was essentially disrespecting how far He had brought me – way beyond a 3-miler through the ‘burbs in 7ºC.
How often had I worked through tasks that seemed impossible just by taking a step back, a deep breath in and a moment in prayer? And really my father’s blood pressure was really not that high and a second week of monitoring as suggested by a doctor who was objective about it was ok. And as for my son, he was after all a), only 9, b), confident he could do it, c), left with 8 whole weeks of prep, and d), actually doing this a whole year earlier to see if he was ready. On top of that, hadn’t we already prayed for his success? And I won’t even mention the really deep valleys that He, our Creator, had lifted me and others up from, and to a higher plane each and every time.
Step out in faith
I was spending a lot of time being fearful of stuff that I had already dealt with yet had fallen into the trap that we all easily do – that default setting of self-doubt and thus forfeiting our faith. So I read on and meditated on the Word: ‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.’ – Psalm 112:7. I prayed as per the devotional: ‘Ask God to remove any fear you may feel of not being good enough. Thank Him that He loves and accepts us just as we are, while inspiring us to improve.’
The devotional went on: ‘Using the gifts God has given you, step out and take a risk based on faith, trusting Him for success.’
And so I stepped out. I set my Nike+ Run Club app to a 2 mile run but when the time was up, I was just warming up so I carried on and ended up doing 4.7 miles. Whilst I was running, divine inspiration came and I worked out this absolutely cracking introduction to a presentation in 2 days’ time. When I got back, 9-year-old was done with homework and was enthusiastic about practicing an exam paper which he completed in good time. And his score, with 7 weeks to go, means if he carries on at this pace, he’ll ace it…and his parents’ purse strings will remain tight for another 6 years. But that’s cool because if we step out, ‘You will have good success’ – Joshua 1:8.’
As for my being a little unsatisfied/unhappy/grumpy all week, well the endorphin rush fixed all that. However, as my little book of ‘Everyday Happiness – 365 Ways to a Joyful Life’ says for today, November 12th:
May we be all encouraged to step out in faith for guaranteed success in all we do – big or small!