‘But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.’ -2 Samuel 24:24
This has been an absolutely fantastic week for me. Starting last Saturday I spent the better part of my day donating time to a Back to School event my church sponsored, partnering with a local Elementary school in need. We as a group were able to provide backpacks & supplies, games, activities, lunch, and a tiny piece of Jesus – all in the 90+ degree temperatures that soared throughout the day. I had done a table offering special education advocacy, and though I’ve been away from public advocacy for several years now, it felt just like home to offer up my gifts to those who might be in need. Even though it was ridiculously hot and the work was long, I left there feeling blessed and rejuvenated.
By Monday a wild idea began to circle through my brain. I’ve been feeling really good, both physically and mentally lately. I thought it might be time to raise the stakes and take on a new physical task, if my doctor approved, of course. As luck would have it, I had an appointment that very day, and my check-up came back as glowing as I felt. I asked permission to participate in the Hartford Marathon coming up in October, deciding that I just might be able to complete walking the Half Marathon in the allotted time. Of course, I’m not looking to win any medals – I simply want to challenge myself to do more than I’ve done before. I’d basically been walking a 5K every other day as it was, so this seemed like the next logical step.
Looking back over the last few years, I’ve lost 110 pounds and had 8 heart procedures. The fact that I can walk at all and still breathe should bring God glory…and that’s my job. My mother dropped dead with no warning of this same heart disease I have, 4 years younger than I am now. My father struggled for every single gasp of breath as he died almost 4 years ago. I know countless people who are obese and can barely move, who have COPD and can barely breathe; while I can, you better believe I am going to move.
So Monday night I hit the track, not exactly sure what my plan was. I just knew I needed to get moving, farther and faster than I had been. The race is 13.1 miles…my current average was 3. Monday night I walked 6 miles, and I didn’t die. Tuesday I woke up, not dead, and went back to the track, where I walked another 6 miles, this time faster. I was breathing, I was singing, I was talking and I was laughing (maybe a little too much…some of those young chippies started to stare!)
Wednesday I took the night off, got dressed up and went out to laugh with a friend – a great night.
Thursday I pushed myself back to the track. It was a little harder to get going, but once I was underway, I walked 7.5 miles.
As you can imagine, as I’m walking I have plenty of time to think – about all kinds of things. I think about this decision I’ve made to try this Marathon. I like saying the word ‘Marathon’ in conjunction with my name. I am no athlete. I was the little smart fat girl growing up. Heck, that’s who I’ve been most of my life. I’ve watched from the sidelines at my kids sporting events: soccer, football, basketball, baseball – mostly in amazement at the way they and the other athletes can move their bodies through space.
Several years ago I started taking karate with the kids, first in their ‘kid’ class with them, and then joining the ‘adult’ class, but even then I certainly was not athletic. I could never find my center of gravity, my balance is awful, and my learning style is multifaceted, so merely watch-then-do does not work for me – I am currently a purple belt as my classmates have far surpassed my level long ago.
But like this Marathon, and much like my life, no one else runs MY race besides me. I was given all the tools I ever needed to complete MY race. Some days MY race will be slow, more of a shuffling pace, and I may not cover much ground. Other days, MY race will look more like a sprint, and all you will see of me is a blur of curly red hair flailing in the wind. I’ve learned with time and experience that I cannot phone it in. Though my talents look different than others, that in no way diminishes my responsibility to use them.
That brings me to the title of this piece. In May I was visiting my family in South Carolina, and heard a lyric from a song in church that resonated with me. Tracking it down, I find it’s from Desperation Band’s latest album, a song called ‘Break Open.’ In the song, they’re speaking of offering empty sacrifices to God. He knows what He’s gifted us with, and He knows what our best looks like – in all things. He doesn’t ask for sacrifice because He needs it – He asks for sacrifice for obedience sake. If we’re only willing to give God what we have left over, that’s a direct slap in the face to our Creator. He wants our best, our first, our everything.
As I do my laps on the track, lost in my countless thoughts, calculating how many of the 13 miles I might actually complete in the 3 hours allotted before the medical support dissipates, I start to contemplate what my best effort would look like, instead of simply enough. I realize I’ve been looking at this whole thing all wrong. If I focus on doing my best, giving my best, and asking for strength to turn in my best, that is exactly what I will do. Nowhere are we promised that getting there will be easy. Anything worth having – better relationships, better health, lasting values – always costs us something. If we are not willing to sacrifice, the ‘prize’ most likely is short-term. I’m so much more into hitching my wagon onto things that are made to last.
I can’t wait to see what training next week brings…