About a year ago I went for a run for the first time after hospital bed rest. After weeks of recovery from a c-section, I craved running. So I grabbed my running shoes and headed out the door. This might seem like a minor event, and it is in the grand scheme of things. People get back to running all the time after childbirth. I have before too.
Except this time, I haven’t.
Running is really important to me. I came to love it in adulthood, much to the surprise of every former roommate and my family. As a teenager and young adult I despised all forms of exercise. But difficulty getting pregnant made me want to be as healthy as possible for any potential baby. So I tried running and grew to love it. It took time, but once it took, there was no going back.
With each pregnancy I took a running break, sometimes because of doctor’s orders, sometimes because I couldn’t run without morning sickness taking me out. But each time, I came back faster and stronger.
I determined to do everything I could to run my entire pregnancy with Ben. And I did, all the way up to the week before I went into the hospital. I even ran a 5k at 32 weeks pregnant (8 days before I was admitted for the abruption). I felt good. I felt strong. I felt like I was finally taking control of my health in pregnancy. And I felt certain I would be able to run with no problems post-partum.
Instead, it’s been the exact opposite. I get back into running routines only to be sidelined by illness, surgery, more illness, and then a hip/back injury that I finally have some answers for (answer: back to back to back pregnancies). I spend a month or so running and building endurance only to be benched again. It’s a mild form of torture for someone who loves running.
I even had to come to terms with the fact that distance running might never be on the table for me. Thankfully, my physical therapist told me this week that doesn’t seem likely. He’s confident I’ll get back to it at some point. We just don’t know when. We also don’t know if the issue that is plaguing me won’t sideline me again. My body has been irrevocably changed and shaped by giving birth to four kids. It’s a gift, but it cost me something.
Through all of this, I’ve also been plagued by my own sin. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Physical limitation and suffering expose all kinds of sinful things in us. So with each step forward in my recovery from injury, I take three steps back. In the same way, with each step forward in sanctification, I am taking three steps back when my physical injury gets in the way of what I want. The therapy that forces me to strengthen the weak muscles in my body, is like the therapy of the word and the Holy Spirit that force me to strengthen the weak parts of my faith. I need the therapy to grow physically and I need the word to grow spiritually.
Weakness is not fun for anyone. Neither is sinning over and over again. But in both of these things we see that there is nothing we do that comes by the work of our own hands. We need God to supply what is lacking both in our physical body and our souls. We need a supernatural work of grace to recover from injury and to recover from the sin that plagues us every day.
Recovering from injury is a lot like sanctification. Some days go better than others. Some days you have the nagging reminder that all is not right in your body and soul. Some days you are floating on the strength that only God can supply. Some days you make great strides. Some days you can barely get off the couch. In all of it, God is more than faithful.
I don’t know when I will run again and I don’t know if my body will hold up when I do.
But I do know that I will be fully sanctified one day. I may not be promised to run a half marathon in this life, but I am promised that the work God began in me will be completed (Phil. 1:6). And even on my most discouraging days, that is a promise I want to hold on to. He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).