I think God made me a runner.
My bones are filled with deep desires to travel and explore the ends of the colorful earth that God has created. I thrive on the adrenaline that comes with encountering the heart beat of a new story, a new creation.
I live for relationships that only let people in a quarter of the way into my heart, that way they never have the power to hurt it. Woven into the fabric of my very being is the question of how long before a person realizes they want out. I contemplate the end before it even begins, asking myself, "When is the end? When's the expiration date on this friendship?"
So I run before they come to the realization that they aren't even halfway down to my core. I run before I am found out.
I run to a new place, where people don't know anything beyond my sweet smile and listening spirit. I hear beautiful stories of grace and see God's faithfulness in the eyes of a young girl searching for freedom. I long for a place with new laughs and new languages of love.
I live life chasing the over-promised and under-delivered wind.
Commitment is the enemy, as I continually try to get out of long dates and pre-planned events. My responses to people always include an "I might be there" of some sorts. I don't invite hearts into my own home because it gives them the power to stay however long they would like. Trapped in my own safe place, I am suffocated. I can't even run from myself.
Only wanting to be let in to the homes and hearts of others, the feeling of being trusted is like the sweet taste of milk and honey; it warms my soul. The honor of being there for someone is priceless. So I listen like it's my job, as if my life depended on it. I hear more stories of heartbreak and love lost; vulnerability at its finest. Advice is my middle name, empathy is my top strength. Taking on someone's problems as my own is my favorite pastime. Somehow my strength is always enough, or so I think, to be there for everyone, to be everyone's everything. I love people with my own, limited, human love, always attempting to change lives in the name of God but somehow managing to seek glory for myself.
Letting people in to my own issues? That's crazy talk. Life is meant to be lived with one foot out the door, always ready to abandon ship if necessary according to the fear that tries to guide my heart. I am a visit not a long stay. I am a hotel not a home.
At the first sign of interest in my narrative, I'm back on the run. No direction in particular, just anywhere away from the chance to be honest. I hide each square of my colorful quilt - each piece into my heart - never allowing it's warmth to embrace anyone but myself. Never telling the stories that stitch together the fabric of my innermost being. I rob myself of my own humanity when I take on the burden of carrying my story alone. I forget that story-telling is a beautifully intertwined dance between the most life-giving and draining phenomenas that one could ever encounter.
Running has become my second nature. Even when my feet are resting, my mind is running like it's on a mission. It's just easier that way. It's easier to assume that everyone will eventually leave you, that way you're never disappointed when they do. So I live with the sound of the waves coming and going on the shore as my deep inhale and exhale. My dance is to the rhythm of my irregular heartbeat; no one else could ever keep up.
I want the depth of a valley but constantly find myself at the shallow shore. I want the destination but never the journey. The journey exposes too much about me. It's too freeing. The stakes of rejection are too high. So I run.
I used to wonder why I knew my friends so well but they knew nothing about me. I knew but was never known. I finally realized that people needed to journey with me, through the valleys and mountaintops, in order to know me. They can't meet me at the end of the road, they have to walk with me and see the deep valleys of my life to celebrate the mountain highs. They need to know how far I've come to appreciate the end. To be known is to be loved, to be loved is to be known.
It gives me peace to know that even Jesus had His own posse of runners.
The twelve disciples went from town to town, on a pilgrimage in the name of truth and light. The radical life they lived together left them with running in the direction of Jesus as their only option.
And when Jesus' time on Earth was up, He reminded them of the gift of humanity they had been given. Glimpses of His love came in the hearts of the broken and vulnerable, the runners. And in the beautifully heart-wrenching image of the cross, Jesus introduces one runner to another:
"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom He loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home." (John 19:26-27)
Inviting someone into the depths of a home, your own home, is like telling someone every secret you always thought you would keep to yourself. Every room reveals a different secret about who you are, the ultimate form of vulnerability.
And right before His death, Jesus sees two runners, two people He knows therefore loves, and tells them to run together towards Him. He tells them to journey together into the core of their homes and very beings - where they will find each other's hearts.
I think God keeps revealing to me why He made me with a little extra kick in my feet. For the quiet ones, for the voiceless, for the ones like me who always choose silence when given the choice. The "I'm fine's" and "I'm doing good's." For the ones who value a voice because it is heard seldom and cherish the song because it is only sung once. For the ones who long for truth even when a lie is easier. For the ones who feel like their brokenness is too deep to be shared and their insecurities too wide. For the ones who don't believe their song is worthy of being sung. For the ones who live in expectancy that they will be let down and rejected. For the few other runners of the world, to run alongside them. We are here for each other - to remind each other that we are not running alone.
He reveals to me the mystery of His love through the few runners I know, the true friends, the ones that understand the depths of my soul. Faithfulness is seen in the rays of sunshine others call their eyes. Commitment is our mutual enemy but somehow we always find ourselves coming back to each other. When we need a reminder that there are people on our team, that we are not alone, we find ourselves all running in the same direction. Fear is our fuel. I look to my left and my right and they are always there, running with me. We remind each other that people may not always be able to find us in the small crevices we run to, but we always will.
They remind me that I can never run from Love further than I can be found. I will never be out of bounce in Love's court.
I'm sure that God is never uncertain about His decisions to make us the way we are. He doesn't second guess His creation. I know this because He has created me, knowing well my runner habits. I know because He reminds me that my feet were not an accident, that they were meant to run towards something greater than my own fears. He knows how to turn them towards the direction of Home every time. Faithful despite my faithlessness.
Somehow, God always let's me run. Maybe it's because He knows His will is stronger than mine. Maybe it's because He trusts that I'll eventually run home, needing more amazing grace than ever after a long time of being lost. Maybe He knows that at some point, lost won't cut it anymore. At some point, I have to be willing to be found.
In His sweet and still voice He whispers, "Stop running in the direction of fear. I've made you a runner to become a pilgrim on the path of peace. I've given you eyes for the other runners of the world, for the people who feel invisible and voiceless. And when you do - run in the direction of peace that is - you'll find the fullness of life, and better yet, you'll find Home. My presence."
I'm glad God made me a runner. A free spirit. And on the days where I feel like I've run too far to ever be found, I am reminded of Love by the ones running at my side. I know I'm a runner, but I'm glad I wasn't meant to run alone.
I'm glad God lets me run. It makes the love story more profound. It makes coming Home even sweeter.
The good news? Even when Jesus died, death never stuck on Jesus. It tried to shove Jesus in its tight little grave but He just wouldn't fit. Death was never a good look on Him. You know how I know? Because three days later He was alive, as just another reminder that not even death was powerful enough to break the commitment He made to my free and running spirit. God's love language was Jesus and His gift was a pair of feet to run towards Him. His commitment is so sure that He runs towards us when we long for the richness of Home. He runs towards us when we fully expect to be greeted by punishment after a lifetime of running away from Him.
"I just want to be with you," He says.
So may my tendency to never go beyond the surface be as Jesus said it always was - finished. May each step taken in the valley and at the mountaintop be shared in confidence because it is worth hearing. May I know and be known. May each stride in my run towards Jesus produce endurance, with each bead of sweat representing more and more purpose. More motivation to keep running towards Him.