There is a place near me where restoration seeps up from the ground, through my feet and into my innermost. Within its hills, some may find a lake and trails. For more than a decade, however, I have found much more: sanctuary and connection – with others, with myself and with God’s creation. Along those trails I have logged hundreds of miles. The pathways have seen me grow into and out of my adolescence and beyond. It’s safe to say we’re close. I’ve brought my life’s highs and lows to its inclines and declines. Some days I thought life’s challenges and the steep trails would be too much to bear. Eventually I reached the crest of those portions of life and trail, having drawn upon unrealized strength to propel me forward with newfound energy.
Both of my weekend mornings began early in this place. The first day I joined friends to hike around the lake – a 10-or-so mile adventure that I hadn’t yet attempted, despite my years of traversing trails. An accomplishment for us all, it was as if I was getting to know the lake even more. I was finally letting it speak to me, instead of coming to it and unloading my trials and sharing my triumphs.
Early Sunday morning I laced up my running shoes and pounded the pavement, running alongside fisherman, groups of geese and a few of the faithfully fit. Again I greeted the lake as an old friend, but this time I was looking it square in the face. The fog hung close to the water, not quite ready to get out of bed either. The sun was peeking over the hills, determined to begin the day. The plants stretched upward, loosening up in preparation of facing the elements. It was a picture of life’s cycles, unpredictable in its steady pattern of regeneration.
Despite the upbeat dance music in my ears, the pondering of my own life’s cycles couldn’t be stopped. Just when you get used to coasting on flat ground, life hands you an incline. This day in particular, my memory served me poorly and my attempt to avoid a particularly long hill led me to an even steeper and longer one. And there were more hills ahead. Yet, this ground and I now had an understanding. Uphills are only part of the cycle. They are one part of a richer story. It was the restoration coming through just when I needed it. Wearily I made my way up and up.
The thing about this particular run is that it ends on an incline. Most days I would groan and jog to the finish. That day, however, my innermost was full and I ran like I haven’t run before. I don’t know what I was chasing, but I knew I had to reach it, and reach it quickly. Fighting past the people and quickening my breath, my determination propelled me into an all-out sprint to the top. It wasn’t pretty. My muscles burned in pain and upon stopping I puked in front of an unsuspecting stranger. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that I had broken through a barrier and had arrived somewhere new. My sanctuary had again helped me tap into unrealized strength. While there may be more questions than answers, I find myself propelled forward with renewed vigor. I’m ready.