I am a runner. I admit it's been awhile since I last put sole to pavement. But I still identify as a runner even when I've taken a few months off. (I've woken up to snow and ice the last two mornings in this mountain town. Can you blame me for taking the winter off?)
I don’t remember when I first started running. I was in 7th grade when I first joined a team. My brother ran cross country and I wanted to be like him. My parents had a rule for junior high aged children: participation in a sport was required every season. So it was natural for me to join the cross country team after spending so much time watching my brother run.
I don’t remember a lot about that year. I don’t know what my times were. I don’t remember my first practice. I don’t even remember everyone on the team.
I do remember the candy bars and notes of encouragement Mrs. Anderson would leave in each of our lockers on race day. They always corresponded to the race. Like Rocky Road on a particularly hilly and muddy course. I do remember the one time I came in dead last (who forgets something like that?). But mostly, I remember the piece of paper Mama gave me to slip in my shoe for my first race.
It was just a slip of white paper. Like a fortune found in a cookie. But it didn’t contain advice or promises of good luck. Printed on this paper were the words of Isaiah 40:31.
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
I don’t think it made me run any faster that day. But I’ve had the verse memorized ever since, and it comes to mind at just the right moments. The moments when I know I’m not strong. The moments when I’m simply tired-out. The moments when I can’t see what’s up ahead and I’m not sure I want to keep headed in that direction. The moments when I need hope.
Has someone ever given you words of encouragement that have stuck with you in tough times?