Today I met a man in a wheelchair. He was in his upper 50’s. Old enough to be my dad. The first thing I noticed when I met him was his awesome custom-made neon colored Nike shoes. They were the kind that could glow in the dark if you charged ’em up long enough in the sunlight. We shared a conversation, and although he probably does not nor ever will know it, he gave me much-needed encouragement today.
He was a runner. Not just a runner in the way I run my 5K races, or muddle through my attempts at increasing my running mileage. No, he was a runner. His average mileage was about a 100 miles. A week. You do the math. He was in his 20’s.
As life tends to do, this man was thrown a curveball. A massive one at that. In a matter of seconds, being in the wrong place at the wrong time rendered him a quadriplegic. Someone who could run marathons with his eyes closed. Now with no more opportunities to win medals or collect race bibs, he was reduced to complete dependence on another at a time when his life should just be beginning.
He still wears his running shoes.
This is why I run.
He told me bacon changed his life. Bacon. Because as he struggled to learn how to regain any ounce of remaining independence, he found himself home alone one day. Wanting bacon. Unable to open the package. He was determined to not spend the rest of his life wallowing in self-pity, and don’t you know he got that darn package of bacon open!
That was his self-reported start to his new life. He realized that some of his limits were self-imposed. And it was time to start over & relearn the game.
This is why I run.
I saw this picture on facebook today and I realized this was me. Back in the spring, I started running. I pushed myself, thinking about Zoe. How strong she was. How she had not just endured, but rather rocked the socks off of four surgeries. Heck–I haven’t even had four surgeries and I am 31 years old! I think about how hard she works, how we have had therapy appointments every single week since she was born, to help her sit, crawl, stand, and slowly but surely work toward walking. Will she ever run? I doubt it. But that’s not the point. The point is–if she can work as hard as she does at such a young age, with a smile on her face at that, who am I to not completely make use of what the Lord has given me? Why waste an ability?
This is why I run.
I don’t run fast & I don’t run far. In fact, (confession time!) my longest distance to date is only four miles. But that’s not the point either. The point is when my legs are tired, and my muscles ache, and my lungs are screaming for oxygen, & I reach the point when I don’t think I can keep running, that I remember. What I am doing is a gift I have been given, and one I don’t want to take for granted. A gift that one day my daughter may wish she had. A gift that the man in the wheelchair misses, and teared up talking about.
I am realizing more and more how much we all take things for granted. Every day. We feel entitled to our jobs. We take our relationships for granted until it’s too late. We pacify the kiddos so we can have peace and quiet, but one day we realize the house is way too quiet and the kids are long gone & grown.
I am learning life is painful sometimes. And running is painful sometimes. You don’t build muscle without first breaking down what’s already there, and you don’t gain in life without first enduring some loss. And it hurts. And no one wants to do it.
Until you get to the other side.
The man in the wheelchair told me he would not go back and change his situation if he could. Even if it meant he could run again. Win races. Use his legs. Because the growth and perspective he has gained through it all has, for him, outweighed the thrill of adding another notch on his lengthy belt of marathons. He was a different person because of this.
I have learned I would not go back and change things. I have no regrets. I don’t regret that Zoe has spina bifida. She is exactly as God intended her to be. I would not be the woman or momma I am today without her. As crazy as it sounds, I wouldn’t change my divorce. It is what it is, and although I don’t delve into a lot of detail about it on here, it is all on good terms. Yes–I have retained some scars from the whole experience, but I like to consider them battle scars. Because to go through battle and come out on the other side means you’re stronger for it.
After today, I will look at my running shoes a little differently (and bacon!). I will appreciate more when I end a run with aching legs, sore muscles, and appreciate the fact that I am not taking for granted what God has gifted me with.
I believe our God wants to use all our experiences–good and bad, for His glory. Although I think HE hurts when WE hurt, I also believe there is always good to be found, a new perspective to be gained, and of course, cool new running shoes to put on 🙂
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. 2 His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”
3 Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him