I’ve talked about running a couple of times, it has been on my mind a lot as I prepare for the Black Mountain Marathon. It has been no coincidence that I have been thinking about running because I have had a lot of time to think while running. Especially yesterday.
Yesterday was my big run day, and I ended up going 22 miles. It was cold, windy, and snowing, but with enough functional layers on, I hit the trail. The first 10 I ran with my wife and dog, but then they departed and I went back out by my lonesome. I’ve been out on this particular trail enough that finding my way isn’t an issue, and can be alone in my thoughts. I expected to see more people on the trail, since it’s the actual race route, and 2 weeks pre-race is a fairly standard gauge for the big training run. But that wasn’t the case. I saw a total of 5 people in the next 3 hours, none going the same way as me, and went 2 hours alone, in the snow. I enjoyed the time running through the snow (1-3 inches) and the sound of it falling. This winter in Western NC has been very mild, with very little snowfall. In fact, my house is only 10 miles from the trailhead I started on, and had no accumulation. Of course, there is a difference of nearly 2000 vertical feet between home and where I was on the trail, and that made all the difference. I wasn’t carrying much on this run, so no pictures this time.
Now, I did bring an iPod nano with me, the first time I’ve done that on a long trail run. My thought was that when my mind starts to wander in a negative sense, I could pop in some soothing music and reel myself back in. That’s right, soothing. A 22 mile training run is no place for classic rock or rap, or really anything fast-paced. If I get amped up for 5 minutes, who cares? Only 205 minutes remaining! So I’ll listen to pretty chill music. Lots of instrumental music, Mat Kearney, Explosions in the Sky, Indelible Grace, and Mumford (the slower stuff, ala Timshel).
As I was making my way back, I thought about how I had just run a 2 hour section and hadn’t seen anyone. The weather was cold, the landscape white, and I felt very alone. The thought didn’t really bother me, but I dwelt on it. Within 15 seconds, the next song began to play. It was instrumental, with strings, then a faint humming. The hum grew to a chant, and I stopped. I knew this song, but hadn’t heard it in a while. What was it? The name of the song hit me, and I smiled, amused. It was God’s Theme, from Evan Almighty (give it a listen here). I’ve progressed enough in my faith to believe that God speaks and works through anything he well pleases. As Richard Rohr would say, “everything belongs”. That quote on your bag of tea? Yep. The idea in Fight Club that you are not your possessions? Yep. Cleaning a Haitian’s Sunday shoes? Yep. Hearing a song called God’s Theme after thinking to yourself “I’m all alone”? Yes sir.
I couldn’t run for a couple minutes; just walked along and smiled at the frozen trees and grey sky. I felt God around me, and while the logical argument could be made that my feeling was a combination of the playlist, fatigue, and mysticism, you know what? Everything belongs.
I continued to run, and thought about how God is always with us, when we feel surrounded by love or totally alone. You are never at a point low enough that God will not continue to reach out and plea for you to embrace him. Now, the even more terrifying reality is that he is with us in our wickedest thoughts and actions as well. We may fool ourselves in to thinking that no one knows what we have done or are trying to cover up, but God does. I’m not saying this to paint God as the world’s greatest detective, who’s gonna git ya’. I’m saying to emphasize that we cannot run from him, or hide our past. But even in that terrifying presence, remains mercy. He knows, and so we do not have to pretend. He knows, and has paid for all of it. It is done and finished. You can be free from your own guilt, because our guilt will be the only thing holding us back.
I bet you didn’t expect for a post that started out describing a wintry run to culminate with the promise of God’s mercy, and to be honest neither did I. We never fully know where a day or story will take us. But, I hope you now realize that…
(also, the playlist was on shuffle)