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Running. Some recoil at the very sound of the word, repulsed by the thought of physical exertion and pain. Others view it as a chore or duty, at once beneficial and disagreeable, akin to choking down distasteful vegetables. Fortunately, I belong to neither of these two groups, having learned to savor that which so many find unpalatable. Running is my escape, my refuge, my place of solitude, comfort and bliss. There, do I seek respite and solace. There, do I stimulate my mind with life’s deeper questions. There, do I find forgiveness within my heart for those who have wronged me. There, do I pray to my creator God in thankfulness and in sorrow, in anger and in joy.
I always know when it is time to run. A thermometer is placed in a turkey that pops when the bird is cooked. I too have a gauge embedded in my flesh. It determines when internal pressure has become too great, that I must escape the scorching heat of the oven, or else be burned. I am by no means impenetrable to the disappointment, doubt, dread, and despair that this cruel world frequently hurls in my direction. Some are protected from these baneful emotions by a thick layer of skin, made callous by frequent exposure. Yet my skin is ever sensitive and porous. I am unable to dismiss such sentiments but rather absorb them and allow them to sink so deeply. Like wood, I soak up that with which I am inundated; like wood, I expand as the pressure gradually builds; like wood, my expanded form can no longer fit the tight-fighting mold of my existence, and must find an outlet to release these unbearable feelings or else split down the middle and burst at the seams. At this moment I begin to run.
At first I always run away. I flee, my back turned to the life I could no longer bear, the pressure I could no longer withstand, the emotions I could no longer endure. There is often physical pain in the early moments of my run. I consider this my punishment for attempting to escape my confined existence. My breathing is unnatural, my stride is forced, and my muscles whine of pain and soreness. Yet I persist through this unpleasantness knowing that my physical and mental burden will soon be lifted. With each step I take, I draw nearer and nearer to my paradise, my place of isolated contemplation, and further and further from the harsh reality behind me. After a few moments spent in this strange land of transition, this purgatory, I enter into my paradise. My breath, my heart, my stride, my pace. All falls into a perfectly regular rhythm. I am no longer aware that I am running, no longer aware of any bodily pain. My physical existence has been made unconscious so that my spiritual existence may be revived. Here, in this elevated world of thought, unadulterated by the distractions this world creates, can I look down with fresh perspective upon my life. First, I purge myself of the detrimental emotions that I have absorbed throughout the day. I contemplate the scenarios that have caused such feelings and resolve to apologize where I have erred and forgive where I have been wronged. Having cast off this heavy burden, I am truly free to travel where my mind may take me. I often muse upon such questions as my purpose on this earth, my plans for the future, and the provision God has so graciously shown me in all circumstances. As I entertain these thoughts, I am moved to prayer. I offer thanksgiving, and boldly request guidance and direction in this ephemeral existence. Upon presenting these prayers, I am often granted a fresh perspective of cheer and optimism. With this renewed outlook, the thought of returning to the world from which I have briefly escaped becomes more bearable. I truly savor these moments of searching, and often finding new meaning, new dimension, new significance. Yet my runs are evanescent. Though I long to perpetually live in this land of repose and elation, I am unable to outrun reality, which chases behind so persistently. When I can no longer maintain my pace, my pursuer catches up. I am recaptured, as my physical consciousness awakes once again, attempting to drone out the faint sounds made by my mind and spirit. Yet the effects of these moments spent in contemplative paradise never vanish. The memory of my previous adventure elevates my spirit, as it waits patiently for its next outing.





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