He didn’t know how long he had been running, nor did he care. Gliding down a country road, surrounded by wheat fields and encompassed by the glow of the rising sun, he knew something about this act resounded deeply with his soul. You see, there was something about running, the act of controlled falling that enlivened his soul and introduced a spectrum of color and life to his eyes that had never been there before. This was not some merely endorphin induced high that some, mostly those who know nothing of the art of running, dismiss as a hormonal response to straining the body. He knew better. He knew it was more than that.
As he ran he pretended to become a spectator on the side of the road watching him run. He began to imagine the things that this spectator would notice first. He almost assuredly would not notice the runner until he was right up on him. His footfall was much too silent to be heard from too far off. The quiet slapping of his light flats on the asphalt made the most inconspicuous noise that only complimented his forceful, yet modest breathing. His movements were effortless. The spectator would first notice his fixed gaze. The runner’s gaze would be fixed upon the horizon, beholding its beauty, taking it in. His gaze would not just be the gaze of sheer determination. Rather, it reflected something more than simple wilfull subjection to pain. This runner was doing more than just “pushing through it.” His vision dwelt upon the beauty of the world around him. As the rising sun illumined the road, the wheat fields glowed with a magnificence only seen by those looking for it. And he was looking.
Most certainly the spectator would observe the slow drip of sweat from his brow splashing upon his lean frame. With each drop, the efficiency and effectiveness of every movement would be come more and more apparent. No motion was wasted. Every time his knee drove upwards and forwards, and every time his foot would slap the pavement with an explosive lift off, the one watching would know that this complicated chain of movements was more natural for this runner. Of course the spectator would see the way his feet never quite touched the ground. It seemed that he merely floated upon the surface of the road.
His gliding becoming more like flight, he turned his attention from the imaginary spectator. The mist hovering over the ground had slowly lifted and disappeared; the immense source of light was rising higher and higher in the sky. A slight breeze whisped around his churning arms and legs.
He remembered the first time he really ran, the first time it resounded in his soul. It had been a Sunday morning and his family hadn’t risen yet to prepare for church. It was a summer morning in West Texas and his house was only a few miles away from the sweet isolation of farmland and dirt roads. He took off from his home, silently cruising through one neighborhood and through the next until he reached the westernmost portion of the city. What he felt he was sure was much of what great the leaders of the renowned expeditions of the west. It was an immense sense of freedom accompanied by fear for there were many things to be realized while running.
Yet, looking out at that first long run in the west Texas countryside, he knew he’d been a runner for longer than that. He recalled how his father had planned much for him; he desired him to be great. For he was a man of great wealth. He would recall a conversation he had had with his father.
“Son it would be best for you to study business. That’s the way the world works. Even as a pastor you’ll be a business man.”
“Son you must trust me. I know what it’s like out there.”
“Father, I’m afraid to say that I just don’t..”
“Again son, you must trust me. I’m tired of you interrupting me when all I want to do is help you. Why won’t you trust what I have to say? My experience? You always just disregard what I tell you as if I’m some damn swindler out to rob you.”
What a funny thought. Jesus had not been a thing he’d ever learn to handle as a dollar bill. It was true though, he did run from his father’s words. He did jettison them, considering them ignorant talk from an ignorant man.
His father would have him take over the family business. “Ministry” would be a simple fad; it would pass just as his new found hobby and he would eventually return home, recognizing his own ridiculousness. This would inevitably result in his coming to his senses and allowing his father to say,
“I told you so.”
He feared those words. Because hearing those words would mean he had arrived. And the destination of this arrival would be undoubtedly not the place he’d ever intended to be. He feared that place and he feared home. This must be why great escape could be found in eighteen mile training runs. Two and a half hours away from “I told you so’s” and “why don’t you come sit and listen to me son’s.” Those anticipated hundred and fifty minutes of running meant being alive.
However, as he ran today a twinkle of an inclination came rushing forth in his head faster than he could run. He suddenly realized that regardless of how far or long he ran, he must at some point arrive. Life found only in his head could not really be life at all. Merely an illusory experience of what he really wanted. Sincerely he desired an engagement of not just his head but also his body.
A life on the run could not be life at all. He then realized a the sun rose higher and higher was that the act of running merely gave him a picture of what he really wanted. Sure, he knew business was not the answer, the pleasure of his father’s family wasn’t enough. Yet, he never thought to think that what he ran after every morning as the son rose wa just as false as what his father desired. How could he have ever thought such a thing?
Arrival meant that he would be engaged body and soul, heart and mind. Arrival meant the running would stop. He knew a fear existed in arriving. This fear was much greater than ever starting in the first place. He knew he would hear his father would say something. He feared this more than anything.
As he passed the 9 mile mark, the place where the run would normally become effortless, suddenly became forced. He pushed through. He decidedly picked up his pace. He’d moved past the wheat fields and hit a dirt road leading to the city garbage fill. This landfill was the smaller of the two utilized by the city. It consisted mostly of mangled masses of tree limbs and vegetation found unfit for the cultivated yard within the city. The scene was really quite impressive. Mountains of assorted limbs all that had been cut off from live growing trees, thrown to the outskirts of the city, left to be consumed by some large chomping, grinding, grotesque machinery. This was the place he arrived while running. This is the place where his own feet led him time and time again.
He suddenly hurt to go home. Each labored breath was a sigh of deep regret of the distance he pace by pace put between himself and his destination. He knew suddenly that the words he feared at home were never meant to be heard the way he heard them. They were spoken in love. His mind and heart resolute, he set his body towards home, for this arriving would be beautiful.