I recently had an opportunity to participate in a Charity 5kRun/Walk. This event, The Jazmine T. Bryant Brighter Day Fund, was founded in honor of its namesake with a purpose to bring awareness to mental health. The topic of mental health has been shrouded by stigma, avoidance, and minimization--yet it is an important aspect of overall health and well-being that warrants attention and care.
Although I did not run in this race, I proudly represented the walkers! It was a beautiful, uncharacteristically cool, almost chilly, Saturday for late July in New Jersey. There was excitement in the atmosphere as the runners and walkers stretched, chatted, and watched the countdown clock at the starting line. At 8am on the dot, the run/walk began.
I enjoy the peace and beauty of nature, so for me, the walk soon became a sensory experience--the smell of the fresh air, hearing the birds chirping, gazing up out the clouds in the sky as the sun intermittently peeked through them, feeling the terrain under my feet. And then, it became a spiritual experience. Since I was a walker, I had been using the runners as my guide. However, it was not long before I lost sight of them and got off course. But, I continued as I continued to walk I saw an orange cone along the path that read, "THIS WAY". An internal sigh of relief coupled with reassurance that I was on the right path waved over me. Shortly thereafter, I saw some of the event coordinators/volunteers in the distance. They were clapping and cheering for the event participants, "C'mon, keep going! You got this! Yeah!!!" Hearing those words fueled me, as I'm sure it did for the others who were running or walking.
Before I knew it, I was at the 1.5K marker. As a walker, I had the option of stopping there or continuing. I was not ready to stop, so I decided to keep going! As I walked, I could hear the sound of runners behind me, then next to me, and then I could see them pass me until they were out of view. Because this event was in a park, there were benches along the way. I thought to myself, "Wow...this run is a lot like life." There may be times in which it seems as though everyone is running past us or we are moving at a snail's pace. There may be "convenient" places to sit and watch (with admiration, envy, criticism, etc.) others run by or, we can run/walk our best race. Everyone's race is different, but we all have been afforded the same opportunity to get in the game.
At this point, I had hit the 3.5K marker. My hoodie was now tied around my waist and I was starting to feel the burn in my legs. I wondered if I had made the right choice to keep going. I was getting hot, tired, hungry, thirsty, and sweaty. But, I was too far into the race to stop or turn back; I had to keep going. As I wrestled with my thoughts, I could see a table with cups of water and sports drinks. There was also another cheering squad, "Would you like some water? You got this! You're almost done!" I scooped up a small cup of a turquoise-blue sports drink, smiled and nodded at the encouragement, and continued on.
Not too much longer after that, I could hearing music playing and I knew the finish line was close. I began to feel overwhelmed on so many levels. I had never participated in a run/walk, so this was a new experience for me. As I crossed the finish line, there was a cheering squad, a table with fresh fruit, bottles of water, and energy bars. I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was felt grateful for the opportunity to support an extremely important cause. And, I was in awe of God as I was able to see him through it all. This filled me with wonder, reverence, and contemplation. It put life, the importance of community, the human need of care and compassion, as well as pursuit of a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God in a new perspective. We need each other and the richness of community that enhances the beauty of life (Psalm 133). And, we need a Savior, who affords us the opportunity to experience life to the full (John 10:10). That is not to say that we will not experience hardships, challenges, difficulties, hurt, pain, and struggles, but through Christ, it is possible to overcome them (John 16:33).
May we all make a volitional decision to relate to our brothers and sisters with kindness, care, empathy, and compassion. And, if we are struggling internally, may we seek and receive help knowing that we are all journeying through life together. May we be people of hope; understanding that help is available if we are not okay.
Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank you that you know me. You know my distress, my hurt, my pain, my shame, my hidden and buried secrets that have oppressed my soul. You know my inner turmoil. Father, I confess that these burdens are complex and overwhelming. I give them to you and I exchange them for your peace, love, compassion, comfort, and care. I thank you that you promise to heal every wound. I receive that soul healing now. I thank you for grace and strength to run my race with zeal, fervor, hope, and expectation (Hebrews 12:1-3)