God of the Deluge

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Mette Ivie Harrison is a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist and frequent guest here. She is the author of The Book of Laman, published by BCC Press.

Eight weeks before the Boston marathon, my treadmill broke. I know, big deal, right? Most runners love the outdoors and it was starting to be spring. But I am not most runners. I love indoor training and the security it provides, from pitstops to water to Netflix and no dogs. I wasn’t happy to have to run outside, and this feeling was compounded when I found I had Achilles tendinitis. But I just kept training because I had to do Boston this one year I qualified.
The weather got worse, as you know if you live in Utah. My refusal to stop training despite the Achilles tendinitis led to a second injury, high hamstring tendinitis. That means every step, my right butt or my left heel flared with pain. I stubbornly kept running. I don’t say this to brag about how tough I am. Sometimes I’m really stupid about goals and checking boxes. It’s simply what I do, no matter the wisdom in it.

But I learned to my surprise that there is something glorious in running in a cold rain, knowing there is a hot bath waiting at home. With no Netflix to watch, I turned to religious podcasts about the resurrection and looked all around me at the signs of spring: trees budding, flowers bursting from the dirt, grass rising from the brown grave of winter. I felt I was praying through every miserable, painful step. I felt closer to Christ on His journey to the cross.

And I felt as if God Himself had somehow settled into my core as I ran, promising me that there was always the warm embrace of His love waiting for me after the snow and hail and sleet and death. I felt fearless and strong, buoyed up in a confidence that was not wholly my own.

I knew before Monday that Boston would be rainy. I didn’t know it would be so close to freezing. I brought layers as instructed, but Sunday night I seriously considered staying in bed. It was going to be a slow, painful, miserable race. What was the point of torturing myself?

But I woke up and dressed and braved the weather and crowds and my own fear anyway. I guess I went to show myself that I could be proud of a terribly slow time and I could find joy and even the divine in the worst of circumstances.

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Mette after running

It was a miserable race in many ways. Every step was painful. The weather did not relent at any point. Yet when the deluge drenched me again and again, when the winds gusted, when I slowed to a crawl up heartbreak hill, when my phone and watch died and I had no way of knowing my time or pace, I remembered that I was safe. God was with me in my core. I was never so cold I couldn’t bear it, never afraid I would not have the strength to finish, never angry that I had not been given the idealer race I wanted. Nothing could separate me from the love of God.

This is the new me that I have found with my journey in God. I don’t pray for miracles, except the miracle of being safe in God’s hands. I didn’t pray for the pain of my injuries to go away, only that I would have the strength to bear them. I didn’t pray for the rain to abate, for mountains to move, or to run faster than I had strength. I didn’t pray to feel pleasure in every step.

I prayed only to be present in the race of life, to love sorrow and grief as much as celebration, because the love of God is always there at the core, keeping me warm and safe.

To me, this is the real lesson of Noah’s flood, of Alma’s conversion, of Christ coming to the Nephites, of the parable of the prodigal. Life rages, winds blow, rain pounds. But God is in these things, too.

*Photo credit: Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr.

Comments

  1. Happy Hubby says:

    Congrats on running the race despite the challenges. That is amazing. Great that you could find spirituality in the middle of that.

  2. Congrats on running the Boston marathon—that’s a huge accomplishment! I’m not nearly as accomplished a runner, but your words about running in the elements resonate with me as I am learning how to do this in southeastern Idaho. I never thought I could get used to running in biting wind on chilly, drizzly evenings, but usually, if I just keep going, my body gets warm and my legs begin to feel weightless. I lived my whole life never realizing that running could make you feel like flying—I had never allowed myself to get past the initial discomfort of it in my youth and wrote myself off and just “not an athlete.” Running has humbled me by reminding me that my body is stronger and more capable than I credit it, and there is something sacred in that, I think.

  3. Kristin Brown says:

    Congratulations and a big Amen to everything described in your post. Thank you.

  4. Kristine says:

    The God of New England Weather is a strange one–it’s snowing today.

    This is lovely, Mette. Thank you for living it and writing it.

  5. These are beautiful thoughts! Thank you!

  6. I just shared this with my sister, whose husband also ran the marathon that day. We are all in a race, perhaps competing with the best version of ourselves, trying to get closer to it! Your words here are beautiful….they’ve inspired me today.

  7. John Mansfield says:

    The harsh cold weather Sunday seems to have been what best suited American women runners. It was the coldest Boston marathon in thirty years, and the first time since 1985 that an American woman finished first, first 1-2 finish by American women since 1979. American women also placed fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. A Canadian placed third. Quite amazing in comparison to other years.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you, and congratulations on completing the race!

  9. Monday, John–the heathens in Boston still don’t do their marathon on the sabbath…

  10. Amen to your final paragraph. God and I don’t communicate the same way anymore, and I like it. I quit begging, pleading, negotiating – I started living and saying “Thanks.”

  11. John Mansfield says:

    Mixing up the day was a very unpatriotic error on my part.

  12. wreddyornot says:

    He is with you every step of the prep and all of the way and then He is with you at the end.

  13. wreddyornot says:

    Oh, and She is too.

  14. Very nicely done, both the race and also your post here. Brightened my day, even though it is sunny and seasonably warm here in the Seattle area.

  15. Congratulations on making it to Boston and for running a very soggy race! Tremendous accomplishment. And thank you for this post.

    I’m a trail runner who can’t seem to qualify for Boston but I’ve run several ultras. One of my most spiritual experiences was when I was listening to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony at the moment the sun came up over a distant mountain. My impression was that there is a God out there somewhere and he cared enough to provide a beautiful world. Sometimes that’s the most belief I can summon and although it’s small it is real.

  16. This is a beautiful post, Mette. I find so much to learn and appreciate and remember.

    On the other hand, training and running through those injuries and pain . . . [self-editing I’ll just say] not me!

    In my own efforts to pay attention, I have been surprised to learn that what registers as difficult, as painful, as confusing, can be the right thing, the godly way. Curiously it doesn’t feel like self-denial, like I was taught to expect. The more appropriate simile for my experience is climbing, going uphill.

  17. Thanks for this beautiful reflection, Mette. I haven’t been a distance runner in years, and yet I can relate to the “living life” aspect of this very well. And Grover’s comment makes a lovely addendum.

  18. melodynew says:

    Congratulations on finishing the race. Thank you for this reminder. Beautifully, beautifully writ.

  19. Kristine N says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on finishing the race. You are awesome and inspiring!

  20. Profound….thank you.

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