Running a half-marathon and childbirth have one glaring similarity: you need time to erase the pain before you decide to subject yourself to it all over again.
When I crossed the finish line of my first race everybody said, “Now you’re ready for a full marathon!”
I said, “One and done. I’m ready for a full plate of food!”
I had just run non-stop for two hours covering over 13 miles. That was ridiculous! Why would I ever do that again? Why did I ever do that in the first place?
Fast forward five years.
I turned 40 and the memories of that first race faded. I wanted to prove I wasn’t all washed up, so I registered for another one. I began my preparations, but a twisted ankle and sinus infection set me back. The furthest I ran during my training was eight miles. I was going to have to wing the rest.
On race day the first six miles felt pretty good. The training had paid off. I had increased my pace and distance. I had strengthened my muscles and improved my lung capacity. But sometimes our preparations can only get us so far before something more is needed.
The aching began in my right knee. It happened between miles six and seven. It was nagging but not unbearable. Around mile nine my calves started to tighten. I was entering uncharted territory. My body hadn’t been pushed that far in years. The pain continued to increase and my race suddenly got difficult.
The harder I tried, the more it hurt.
Even if I stopped, the pain would remain. I knew I had to keep going to reach the finish line, but I wasn’t sure it was possible. In the middle of that sea of people I kept putting one aching foot in front of the other.
It was mile ten when I saw them – my friends. They were standing in 35-degree weather on a Saturday morning. They willingly stepped into those less than ideals conditions for one reason – to see me. To call my name. To let me know I was not alone.
They didn’t jump in to run the race for me. They didn’t carry me across the finish line. They didn’t finish my journey for me, but they were present to witness it. Seeing them made me smile.
Hearing them yell made me pick up my pace, but do you know what carried me through to the finish? Hearing my name.
“You got this Elizabeth!”
They weren’t the generic cheers I heard from strangers along the way. They were specific words chosen specifically for me. They were evidence I wasn’t just a face in a crowd. They saw me. They believed in me. They wouldn’t run the race for me but they would watch me cross the finish line.
When my 5-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a chronic illness it hurt. I entered into a stage of the race I hadn’t trained for.
I was forced to do things I once thought impossible.
My family and friends could not step in for me. They could not take on my role. They could not change the circumstances. They could not remove the pain.
What they did was far more important. They showed up. They offered meals, cards, hugs, and prayers. But the thing that meant the most was their presence. The thing that strengthened and steadied me was hearing them call my name.
“Oh Elizabeth, I’m so sorry.”
I was not a face in the crowd. I was seen and known in my grief.
When we are seen, the road may be hard but the loneliness is displaced. When we are seen, grief may not be removed but hope is offered alongside the pain.
Maybe the difficult race right now is yours. However painful your journey may have become, there is someone who sees you and knows you. No matter how difficult the conditions may be, you will not face them alone.
He is calling your name.
That changes everything.
We can never be fully prepared for the struggles, but we can be fully seen by our Savior.
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I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.