“I can’t tonight, I have badminton game after work.” I explained.
“Really? Since when did you have a flair for sports?” my brother replied in amusement then I heard a crisp laughter on the other end.
I was born with weak lungs.
My favorite trip before I was even a toddler is to and fro the hospital. I remember when I had to skip school for more than a week because of an asthma attack; when I had to leave school before lunch time because I have a scheduled check-up; when I had to envy my classmates who are always allowed to go to an out-of-town camping.
It was at fourth grade when I got a “Go” from my parents to join a Girls Scout activity. First, because it was held at the school campus, they can visit and check me out anytime. Second, because I locked myself up in my room for one day to earn sympathy. That was the brat who wanted to get her own way.
Fast forward two decades after, asthma attacks has ceased. But I catch cold easily and I have problematic sinuses. I can’t stand strenuous activities but I always find opportunities to challenge myself and I dive into these opportunities with excitement and caution.
One of the opportunities I enjoy doing is running. I completed my first 10K run last month. It was tough for a first-timer like me but I was able to complete it in an hour and 30 minutes without serious injury. It made me feel good and I thought this is fun. Next thing, I signed up for 12K.
On a cold Sunday, I rose before dawn excited for my second marathon. “Lord, I know you are with me, be with us. This day, as all the other days, is for you.” Behind the starting line, “Thank you for the fine morning, Father, thank you for the friends by my side.” Then, the gun went off.
Barely 5 minutes from starting line, I was feeling nauseated because of clogged nose. Cold weather triggers my sinusitis. I stopped every now and then to catch my breath. Several runners are now ahead of me. I look at the sky “They are better, they are faster.” My heart sank at the thought but I wiped my brows and pressed on.
The sun did not rise. Thick clouds started to sprinkle the earth with drizzle. I can complain that the rain makes the trail slippery but I chose to be thankful it lessens dust and clears the air. A situation changes depending on how we see it. I chose to shift the situation to my advantage.
One of my friends was able to catch up at about eight minutes on the trail. My thought about exhaustion was distracted; we managed to laugh while catching our breaths. A lot like life. Things seem lighter and brighter if there is another soul we can talk to or laugh with. She went ahead of me at about 3 kilometers. The pack has thinned. I am on my own again but not quite.
“Carry your weight, run lightly.” I was reminded that every time our baggage carries us, we slow down and we get tired but if we carry it, take control, and master it, we keep up.
“Keep your eye on the goal but don’t forget to look around.” That voice again. About 30 minutes on the trail, I saw three runners on their way back to the finish line already. “I can’t do it”, I thought but I shrugged it off right away. I focused on the vastness of the horizon. It made me feel bigger than I am and it made me feel capable of getting anything that I set my mind to.
“Yours is not to run first but to run and finish the run.” We were created differently. Usain Bolt must be wired with speed but when he played during the recent NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game, he only scored 2 points. Basketball is not his cup of tea but it doesn’t mean he cannot take a sip. We can try things out but we have to find what our role is and play it. Mine is not to finish first.
My nose is still bugging me, it made breathing difficult. It made me stop and walk. “Lord, you are with me, please send me 20 angels to lift me towards the finish line. I cannot do it with my own strength from here.”
Rain is still pouring. “Are they twenty now, Lord?” “Not yet child, but almost there, just go on.”
About 6 kilometers down the road, I met another solo runner. “My friends are already ahead of me. I cannot keep up with them so I decided to take my time,” April explained. She lags behind me on the trail and she looks more tired than I am. We do not know when our kind gesture and encouraging words will have an effect on another but say it anyway, do it anyway when you get a chance (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
“It’s not the speed but the endurance,” I said. I was hoping it will encourage her. An encouraged spirit gets tired but doesn’t lose the joy. We run together to the next turn until I picked up my speed and run ahead again.
“Are they twenty now, Lord?” “Yes, child, exactly as you have requested.”
“Lord, I already stopped running 30 minutes ago, this is your Spirit running for me now.” All the time, I cannot rely on my own strength alone. I have come to realize my limitations. When crisis arise, I used to use my head right away and plan a perfect way out. Self-help works most of the time but at times when I leave it up to God, I am amazed. His ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
About an hour on the road, I was able to catch up with my friends who ran ahead of me. “We are almost there” I said. I felt a surge of energy from within. My steps became lighter and faster.
I laughed at the thought of myself talking alone in the middle of the race. What seemed like a monologue is my way of thinking like my God. In a difficult situation, I ask “What would God say if I ask this?” And out of nowhere an answer always pops up at the corner of my mind. God’s voice is not always audible, I know, but He can take the form of a thought in my head. When the going gets tough, my faith makes me still, I know He is God (Psalm 46:10).
An hour and thirty-nine minutes later, I reached the finish line. It was a good surprise.
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)
Why didn’t I ask for 12 legions? That would be about 72,000 supernatural forces, I could have finished first. I don’t know. But I surely will on my next run.