People are always asking how I’m doing, specifically how running is going. Most of the time my answer is, “okay,” because that’s the easiest way to quickly end what could turn into a long, slightly depressing story. Other days, I don’t mind telling the truth about what it really feels like dealing with years of chronic injury, my not-so-great comeback from surgery, trying almost every therapy under the sun, and most days still not being able to run an 8-min mile pain-free. If you really want to know what that’s like, I would compare it to a journey through the desert—a seemingly endless walk through shifting sands, scorching suns, and mirages of hope that melt away when you run towards them. Anyone who has experienced long periods of waiting or wandering has been on this journey. At first, it might seem like a hopeless, and meaningless place. But I prefer to think of it simply as a detour off the beaten path, out into a place where there are actually many lessons to be learned and things to be gained if you care to look close enough.
Lesson One: You Are Not Alone
When I think of a desert, I think of desolation. Perhaps you’re on this journey now and you feel like you’re all alone. I know I’ve felt this way, despite all of the wonderful people who have been put in my life to help me, it can seem like no one understands exactly what you’re going through. But just like a desert scene seems to hold nothing but sand, cow skulls, cacti and perhaps some tumble weeds rolling by, there are actually thousands of different desert species that call this land their home. In the same way, I’ve realized I’m not alone; we’re all on this journey together. I promise you aren’t the first homo sapien to face difficulties regarding school, jobs, moving, marriage, home life, injuries, illness or whatever it may be. Finding others who are going through similar difficulties and sharing your emotions can be extremely helpful. No, their circumstances might not be the exact same as yours, but that’s what makes your journey unique; your own special story to one day be told.
Lesson Two: Learning from the Past
It’s also important to seek out others who have already gone on this journey and completed it. When I think of journeying through the desert, one of the first stories that comes to mind is the book of Exodus. If you’re familiar with my blog, you know how important my Christian faith is to me, and in this particular story in the Bible Moses led the Israelite people out of Egypt, freed them from slavery under the Pharaoh’s rule, and led them into the desert on a long journey towards the land God had promised them.
It’s usually when we’ve experienced a long period of difficulty, just as the Israelites suffered for years as slaves, that we make the decision to cry out to God for help. The book of Exodus promises us that God does hear our cries, just as he heard the cries of the Israelites.
The Lord said, (to Moses) “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying…and I am concerned about their suffering.” Ex. 3:7
Maybe you don’t believe this because you have been waiting a long time to see God take action in your life. I know I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to overcome my injury and often question the purpose behind this period of waiting. Well, the Israelites also waited a very long time to be delivered from slavery (approximately 430 years!) and it wasn’t until Moses took action, with God’s help, that things finally turned around. Sometimes when we think we are waiting on God, we have to ask ourselves if He might be waiting on us. I’ve realized there are some things that must happen on God’s timing, but other things I can take into my own hands in order to become not only a healthy athlete but also a better person overall.
Going back to the Exodus story, there are many other lessons to be learned. If you read through the story you’ll find a continuous pattern: the Israelites lose faith in God–>then God provides for them when they least expect it–>they celebrate–> a few days or months later they lose their trust in God all over again! Out in the desert God performed so many miracles such as helping Moses part the Red Sea so they could pass through, raining bread down from Heaven to eat, providing quails, and water flowing from dry rocks, and giving them the strength to defeat enemies they had no shot at beating. Despite all of these things, they still continued to doubt God and lacked consistent faith.
On my own journey, I can relate to this. At first when I was injured I approached the situation with great confidence that I would heal quickly, and although it would be difficult I wouldn’t allow myself to break down. Then as days turned into weeks which led to months and years, eventually I hit several breaking points. Like a roller-coaster ride my outlook on the whole thing has gone up and down, up and down. If there’s one thing I credit to “getting though,” its my faith. No, it hasn’t always been the absolute strongest,continuous, and perfect faith in God’s plan, but continuing to run back to Him again and again has been the key to surviving this desert.
Lesson Three: Learning to Adapt
Finally, I’ll leave you with a little more light-hearted lesson: the importance of learning to adapt. Desert animals amaze me with their ability to adapt to the harsh conditions. The African Pyxie Frog can seal itself in a mucus-membrane and hibernate for up to seven years while waiting for rain! The Cape Ground Squirrel uses its bushy tail as an “umbrella” to shade itself. Then there’s the camel, perhaps the most famous desert animal of all, which can go over a week without water and months without food while storing fat in its humps. It’s no wonder camels are the perfect mode of transportation during a journey through the desert. Since running hasn’t really been an option for most of my journey, I had to adapt and find my own “camel” to get around. I like to think of my ElliptiGo as a camel. It might not be the exact same as running, but its a great way to get outside and get my workout in while knowing I’m still making progress towards my goals.
My imaginary camel…and no, ElliptiGo does not pay me to keep endorsing them, I really just love it that much!
And since we’re talking camels, I can’t help but mention that it’s almost “HUUMMP DAAAAY!” which is a great reminder that just like surviving Wednesdays, if we can be patient during the tough times, we know the weekend/finish line/end of our journey is just around the bend.
So remember, this journey that we’re on is actually full of lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made, and a purpose behind every footstep in the sand.