Around Thanksgiving, I signed up to run a race in late January. Since I’ve abandoned the life of a solo runner (see that story here), I invited my friends to join me. Two of them jumped on board, and we each started preparing ourselves to run the 14 K race route.
A few days before race day, I started to feel sick. But because I’m a bit of a fretter and pre-race anxiety is a thing for me, I just swiped it aside as that. But it didn’t go away. And 24 hours before the starting gun, I found myself in bed wondering what’s the smart thing for me to do come 5 am tomorrow morning.
It’s an easy answer, right? Skip the race, duh. But there’s this unwritten cultural code I was picking up on. The “inviter” doesn’t bail. The “inviter” stays committed. The “inviter” doesn’t get the pass. One of my friends was actually flying home early from a trip just because I asked him to run this race with me. I was the inviter. I shouldn’t call in sick.
Was I overthinking it? Probably. But I really did spend a good part of 24 hours pre-race wondering what to do. Clearly, no one would want me to put my health in danger, yet, maybe I was going to be fine?
So I decided to pull out my brave girl and face the race. I’d tell my friends I wasn’t feeling that great and I’d certainly lag in my pace, but I was sure gonna try.
As is normal for me the night before a race, sleep came fitfully. I was running through all my I-can’t-sleep techniques. One of which is going through the ABCs, saying a name or attribute of God. (You should try this sometime, it’s a beautiful, simple, practice of peace).
God, you are Almighty, you are Benevolent, you are Constant, the rest started to come…
You are my Deliverer, my Everlasting One, my …….
When I reached F, I stopped. All I could think was Father, and somehow in my bed on that night, that word landed somewhere soft and sweet. Somewhere needed. I stopped and leaned into this feeling, this invitation to explore why this word felt so right.
God, can you give me a picture of what it means that you’re my Father?
I send the plea off into the dark room.
And He answers.
I see a dad, and I see a toddler. The sun shining on their wide smiles. They’re outside, walking towards the light. They reach a hill. The toddler tires. Without missing a beat, Dad reaches down and hoists toddler up onto his shoulders. Toddler throws his head back in laughter. Dad runs up the hill, toddler hanging on but clearly having the ride of his life.
There is so much joy.
There is so much trust.
And the toddler is doing nothing.
Riding on the shoulders of dad.
His sure steps carrying them both up the hill.
I lay in my bed that night and felt this deep sense of peace. That’s a dad. That’s a father. And God calls Himself that …. To us.
The next morning, I climbed out of bed at my alarm (unrighteous hour), donned the race shirt, pinned on my bib, tied my shoes, and found my way to the starting line. My friends kindly slowed their pace to match mine. We laughed. We moaned. We posed for the photographers (yup, it’s a thing here). We told stories to distract ourselves. We jumped puddles (yeah, it even rained on us). We had fun.
And then came the final kilometer. And my tank was empty. We turn the corner and I see it – a hill.
And just then, I remember that picture. That father hoisting his kid up on his shoulders and for the joy set before him running up that hill. I see that the toddler’s feet are nowhere near the ground and that the father’s sure, steady steps are what carry them through.
Ok, God, take this hill. I’m taking your shoulders.
We made it. The father and I. Up that hill, past those drummers, across the line, to the finish.
You’ll make it, too.
Because your feet don’t need to be sure. His are. Your steps don’t need to be perfect. His will undoubtably be. Your stride doesn’t need to carry you through. His will.
He, your surefooted Father, will hoist you onto his strong shoulders.
And with joy, He will carry you.
What name or attribute of God has been giving you confidence lately?