Most of you know I’ve been in training for the Hartford Half Marathon, coming up on October 10. It’s a pretty big deal, since it’s my first athletic event, and I am by no means an athlete of any shape, form or kind.
I have to say, though, I am darned impressed with myself. From the day I decided to do this thing, I started on a path, albeit a path I had no idea to where it led, and I have not stopped moving. I can’t say I’ve been this motivated to do anything for me – ever. With the exception of one week, where Mama Commitments limited me to one day of walking, I have been out there no less than 3 days per week, sometimes more, with miles on my sneakers (yes, that was plural!) and the sweat to prove it when I’m done.
I recently found this great wooded path not far from my house, and I decided I wanted to conquer it. On my 1st visit, I wasn’t exactly prepared for what I found – an offering of several paths; a few short distance ‘loop trails’ and a long distance marsh trail – and I spent more time surveying and backtracking rather than conquering anything.
Prior to my 2nd visit, I spent time online studying where the marsh trail actually traveled throughout town, and purposely decided to start at the opposite end of where I’d started a few days earlier. After finding the access footpath, complete with cobwebs from lack of visitors, I found the first orange arrow, a sign I was headed in the right direction. About a mile into the marsh path, however, the signs became a bit more ambiguous, and I soon found myself in a neighboring town, clear across town from my car, as darkness was beginning to fall. The only way out, as it were, was in…into the woods.
I’m not exactly sure when this marsh path was first established, but visually you can imagine a lush forest footpath, carpeted by roots and tree limbs. As time wears away the soil, the roots become more prevalent, making each step increasingly important, especially in the darkness. As I continued to look for the orange markings, ever aware of the decreasing light, I wasn’t afraid; just mindful of my steps and my purpose – to get back to my car. I started singing along to my music streaming through my headphones, consciously choosing not to remove them as the distraction helped me focus on the task at hand.
I was also mindful of the battery-life left on my cellphone…very low. And while I’d been tracking my walk, tracing my path and streaming my music, apparently my phone was in revolt. Again I made the conscious decision to keep those apps running – they all served a purpose at that moment, and with them I felt certain I would get to where I needed to be. As I reached this unmistakable boulder that marked the access footpath from the marsh path, I knew I had made it back alright. The crisp moonlight and car headlamps lit my way along the grassy terrain to my lonely car in the commuter lot.
For my 3rd visit, I set off completely prepared; I’d studied the internet map yet again to see where I’d gone wrong; I brought a flashlight in the event I made another fatal directional error; I brought water and a protein packed snack – just in case; and most importantly…my phone was fully charged. Off I went, determined that I had it figured out this time. While I didn’t get lost, I got overconfident once I got close to the exit, making a wrong turn that sent me back out toward the marsh instead of toward the parking lot, essentially adding another .6 mile to my walk. My only shallow victory was that I did not need the flashlight I had brought, as I emerged from the brush with still some daylight overhead.
Today, I woke up determined. This marsh path was not going to outwit me. It was a beautiful first day of fall, and I was going to make the most of the daylight. I gathered my normal walking paraphernalia (minus the flashlight) and headed to the marsh. But today, I sat for a minute on one of the benches at the entrance. I stretched out, which I haven’t been doing appropriately, and could possibly be why I have a slight pull in my right calf. Lastly, today I decided to bring my iPod instead of using my phone for music. This proved to be the most important decision I have made all week, probably in all of my training.
I started off strong, as I usually do. Good typical pace for me. Passed a few single people walking, a man and his son, other than that the path was isolate as I generally find the farther out I go. Mile 1 flew by, and the grueling steep climb of mile 2 began. But today, something was drastically different. One reason I keep coming back to the marsh, besides the fact that I’m so stubborn, is that it is unmistakably beautiful. Everywhere you look little touches of nature spring out and you know God has touched this place. From wild growing cherries and grapes, to unique trees growing intertwined upon each other, to fern outstretched toward the light, to the man-built bridges and planks peering out from nowhere – you are inspired and pulled along step by breath-taking step.
Today, though, as my eyes were pressed onward, I found myself distracted by an abundance of sights, and not in a positive way. Light crept in where usually it did not, causing need for my sunglasses more than usual – up, down, up, down – an irritating cadence erupting. As I observed my steps, those holes in the dirt I’d assumed were from chipmunks were now filled with mud wasps, and I scurried around them careful not to disturb their meeting. Wood planks laid on their side revealed steep drop-offs I’d not noticed until today, causing me to shrink close to trees opposite the drops.
And just about this moment I became acutely aware of my music, streaming loudly, the most perfect of songs for that very moment. See, my iPod has two playlists – one with pop music and one with Contemporary Christian music. My iPod was set to ‘shuffle’ and these lyrics rang through:
Giver of every breath I breathe
Author of all eternity
Giver of every perfect thing
To You be the glory
Maker of Heaven and of Earth
No one can comprehend Your worth
King over all the universe
To You be the glory
I continued walking, slowly, as these words sank into my soul. I knew I was being touched by the Holy Spirit at that moment, I was just trying to grasp the full extent.
Early on I declared I was doing this walk because I can, in fact, walk. Because I am healthy; because I am happy; because I am free. But I never once stopped to give the glory to GOD for all that means to me.
Then I heard Him say to me very clearly “You have excellent faith in the darkness, and yet you fear in the light.” How on point is that? I find it so very easy to blindly trust what I know that I know, but things I have partial vision of, I need constant reaffirmation before I can believe.
This marsh path is just like my walk. In the darkness, I had no fear when I more than likely should have. But in the light of day, I wouldn’t trust what I could see. I was fumbling and stumbling, and allowing fear to creep in, making vision an obstacle rather than a support.
It was at this point on the path a very distinct fork occurs, and you can easily become disoriented. Your inclination is to go down, but that choice leads you deeper into the woods. You must choose up to clear the trees. You must choose up. Let me tell you something else – today, I didn’t get lost, not one wrong turn, and I made it out before dark…best time yet. No coincidence there.
What are you putting blind faith in where you shouldn’t be today? And what areas are you questioning what you can see clearly, perhaps because you don’t like the answers you see? Lastly, are you giving glory to the One who gave you everything?
Today is a new season, the perfect time for a fresh start. I know I’m glad for the times I chose up.