23 April 2012

start...to LOVE

i have a confession to make.

i'm a pretty lousy runner.

now, this news isn't exactly earth-shattering, given that when i run, i have to stay on the far right-hand side of the trail or sidewalk so that parents pushing strollers can pass on the left.

but i admit it nonetheless, not just because i have the 'running form' of a walrus, but because of my lack of desire and discipline to run, which contributes significantly to my overall sucky-ness in said sport.

(trying saying that five times fast. 'contributes significantly to my overall sucky-ness in said sport.' i guarantee that by the fifth time, you'll be saying this with a lisp. or thaying thith with a lithp.)

that lack of desire and discipline stems primarily from the fact that i truly don't ENJOY running. i ENDURE it. i somehow believe (read: delude myself into thinking) that when i finish a run, i will be in a healthier state of mind, body and spirit than i was when i began. never mind the reality that when i'm in the midst of a run, i usually reach a point where my body is ready to file a class-action suit against my spirit for forcing it into indentured slavery (although the defendant, my spirit, will astutely point out that while the 13th amendment forbids one person from enslaving another person, there's nothing in the fine print that prohibits a person from enslaving one's self). and when the slavery ends, i experience not the 'runner's high' (which is almost entirely a delusional hallucination brought on by extreme fatigue and a 'rubberization' of the legs, arms and torso which creeps up into the brain), but rather, the 'runner's-about-to-plunge-off-the-bridge-onto-the-rocks-in-the-river-because-that-will-feel-better-than-the-pain-he-feels-right-now'.

bottom line: i don't feel like running most of the time because before, during, and afterwards, it HURTS.

(and PLEASE don't start sending me replies about the gait of my feet or insoles that will save my life or doing 'core' crap to strengthen other parts of my flabby body (which is just another form of the 'indentured slavery' mentioned above) and help me in my overall 'enjoyment' of running. the vast majority of the time, i JUST DON'T LIKE IT. PERIOD.)

the pain on the pathway is a hindrance to the pleasure of participating in the exhilaration of the experience.

SO...the $64,000 question is...WHY do i do it? WHY subject myself to such torture? and WHY then complain about subjecting myself to said torture?

answer? because of Love.

not for the activity itself (obviously).

rather, because of a love for a group of dear people i never thought i would know who live on the other side of the globe, specifically in Nakuru, Kenya...some of whom have been rescued from living in a makeshift city garbage dump...some who are still living there...some who are HIV positive...some who are still trapped in the throes of chemical addiction...some who have been set free from addiction and are experiencing Love in a community of hope for the first time in their lives.

the community is the Nakuru 316 Bridge of Hope Rescue Shelter.

the team that Trevor and i will be running the Missoula Half Marathon with is TEAM 316.

we are running to raise awareness and funds for the shelter, and to help build hope not only for them, but also so that the other young women and boys who remain in the dump might one day experience that same Love and live into that same hope.

we are attempting to do it for the second time in our lives. not primarily for the sake of our own health. but for the sake of literally saving lives. for the sake of a living hope.

for the sake of Love.

i have another confession to make.

i'm a pretty lousy lover.

not so much in the sense of not being a generally 'romantic' kind of person (double negatives aside, i am basically a fairly affectionate guy). nor in a manner of not having a heart for others and caring deeply about them, especially in times of disorientation and distress, depression and despair.

more in the sense of not having a 'natural' disposition to show that care towards others in tangible, practical ways. like seeing someone stranded on the side of the road with car trouble and stopping to help. or taking a meal over to a family who's just experienced a loss. or simply taking the initiative to give a call to a person who is traveling through life all alone and would benefit from the presence of a listening ear or hearing a familiar voice.

now granted, i have shown love to others in ways like these in my life, and the experiences have been real and meaningful both for the people for whom i have cared and for me. what i'm owning up to is that when it comes to how i express love in my life, my more 'natural' tendency is to wish others well in empathy and Spirit, and to keep my distance in presence and body.

and that impulse is magnified and multiplied when life circumstances converge and lead me into an experience of feeling misunderstood, perplexed, betrayed, rejected, and deeply hurt. in a situation like this, the fact that i may be 'called' to love others means very little to me. i simply lack the desire and discipline to love anyone well. i don't ENJOY loving anyone at that point. i ENDURE it.

(i realise that this is the height of irony in the already highly ironic journey that is my life. for years now, i have spoken and written, preached and taught the centrality of Love as a Presence to be experienced personally, and shared with others relationally through our own presence with them. and yet, i struggle most deeply and shamefully with that which i have articulated most eloquently and passionately.)

bottom line: i don't feel like loving in times like these because before, during, and afterwards, it HURTS.

the pain on the pathway is a hindrance to the pleasure of participating in the exhilaration of the experience.

i mentioned the other day that as i was chugging along my regular 4-mile trek, right in the middle of it, i noticed along one of the bridges that someone had spray painted the word 'Start' followed by a squiggly line. i was so struck by this surprising revelation, my mind immediately began making connections to the journey of my life. and my head lifted up and my face looked forward down the path and over the river with a newfound sense of vision and energy.

what i had failed to notice was what was at the end of the squiggly line.

it was another word.


the only reason i had noticed this second word this time around was because i had developed cramping pain in my right calf. and so, i had to stop running for a few moments and start walking. and it was in the midst of my pain that i perceived the message.


and so, even though i didn't feel like it, i felt spurred on to slowly begin running again. i even found a way to alter my stride a bit so that the pain wasn't as noticeable as before.

and then i had to stop and walk. again.

and then i started running. then walking. then running.

and gradually, i started to get back into a rhythm again. and the pain in my right calf was lessening. and i was on my way home.

until a sharper pain shot through my lower left leg.

'What the FROCK is going on?' i oh-so-graciously yelled under my breath.

and then i laughed.

and then i limped.

and then i walked.


no illusions of finishing the run by running.

but moving forward.

moving onward.

all the way home.

through the pain.

the pain on the pathway that was a hindrance to the pleasure of participating in the exhilaration of the experience.

it's hard to run in the midst of pain.

it's hard to love in the midst of pain.

and no matter how many times i've heard and used the cliches about 'what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger' and how 'pain is the pathway to blessing', i still come back to the brutal reality that was articulated so eloquently by Westley to Buttercup in 'The Princess Bride'...

'life IS pain, Princess. anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.'

running HURTS.

loving HURTS.

living HURTS.

and sometimes, I JUST DON'T LIKE IT.


but there's something about moving THROUGH the pain instead of trying to get around it that ultimately leads me to a place that is perplexing...AND peaceful.

a place that is jarring...AND joyful.

a place of hurting...AND healing.

a place where a lousy runner AND a lousy lover is embraced...AND empowered.

to walk...AND run...and experience the fun.

to live...AND give.

to start...to LOVE.


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