Running from Embarrassment

Running from Embarrassment
retired
Retired. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

 

Costumed in a kelly green tracksuit with yellow stripes down each leg and arm, I left our tiny apartment for a run. I must’ve been a sight! I didn’t get into running consistently in college despite that green polyester jogging suit.

 

My feelings of conspicuousness coupled with the memories of public school gym classes led me to abandon running in a few weeks. I associated exercise with being targeted, taunted, and ridiculed.

Running was a punishment in junior high school.

In my thirties and forties I dabbled in running, never getting serious. Still, I couldn’t help myself in my pre-dawn walks, often shifting to short runs. Because no one could see me, I was free to move my body. Those adolescent feelings of negative self-image die hard. Today, the taunting of my poor athletic skills and my husky childhood body still lurk within my psyche.

In the last few years, as my running became frequent and regular, I’ve begun to identify as a runner. That identity is qualitatively different than previously.

My aging body is certainly not qualitatively more graceful or attractive. You will not see me on the cover of Runners World. I am, however, healthier and more comfortable in my own skin. Major surgery coupled with the natural aging process, has changed my mind and spirit. I care less about what others think.

I am healthier and happier because I run.

Re-starting this kind of intensive activity in your fifties can and did lead to a few injuries. I listened to my body. They were minor and I recovered well. As I set personal goals, I challenge myself but am respectful of my limits. Despite craving the daily endorphin fix, I’ve learned my body cannot handle running more often than every thirty-six to forty-eight hours.

I choose to learn from the experiences of others, but I focus on health and self-care rather than anything close to competition. Maybe that’s why I do not participate in group running events. Others say they are about personal challenge, not competition. I have no reason to mistrust other runners but for now races do not appeal to me.

Runs are physical and spiritual journeys that mirror life. Some days I meet goals and challenges. Other days I struggle and run slower or not as far as I’d hoped. Some days I just want to go home.

Running is embracing the imago dei within myself. Created in God’s image, I have nothing to be embarrassed about the limits and skills of my body. My mind, body, and spirit are all facets of who I am.

And so I run. I sweat too much, my fat jiggles with each stride, and maybe I look a sight! This is me, as beloved by the divine as the fittest athlete. But run I must because it heals past hurts, strengthens me in the present, and fortifies hope for the future.

I am runner, watch me go.

The Risk of Hard Work

The Risk of Hard Work
Beside Still Waters (variant). Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Beside Still Waters (variant). Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

“Some people don’t need to rest but I do,” she said. In the rhythm of the conversation, it wasn’t the time to contradict her assumption that some do not need rest. I just nodded, “Yeah, me too.”

The great American myth is that we can accomplish more if we muscle through without rest. The great American sin is failing to take care of ourselves and, in the process, failing to trust God that the world will keep spinning without us. It is an arrogance. It is an idolatry to worship work at the expense of rest and self-care.

Besides our arrogance and failure to trust the divine spirit that flows through creation, when we neglect self-care and regular sabbath we abuse ourselves.

Threaded through the biblical witness from Genesis (e.g.; Gen. 2:3) to Jesus (e.g.; Mark 2:27) is an emphasis on the importance of self-care and rest.  Living into the image of God in which all of us are created, we need regular sabbath. Despite the church’s traditional (self-serving?) teaching that sabbath is primarily about going to church, the reality is that most references to sabbath in the Bible are about abstention from work, rest, and self-care.

Created in the image of the divine, maltreating ourselves through overwork is abusing God.

When we forsake physical and emotional rest, we are more likely to mistreat others and break the Golden Rule (Matthew 22:34-40). When we fail to care for ourselves we are less kind, less patient, and, in my case, quicker to become angry and short over minuscule slights. Harming the God in me, harms the God in you.

Without regular sabbath, we cease to be the people we were created to be.

 

I Come Alive

I Come Alive
In the Aviary Domain.  Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License  BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
In the Aviary Domain. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License
BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

I come alive where,
the desert meets the river.

I come alive where,
the scent of healing lines the trail. 

I come alive in,
the aviary domain,
and the land of kindred,
crossing my path.

I come alive beside,
the still waters. 

I come alive when,
I hike with God. 

Where the Scent of Healing Lines the Trail. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License  BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Where the Scent of Healing Lines the Trail. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

___

I wrote this poem and created this video as a member of the planning committee for the Central Pacific Conference, United Church of Christ Annual Meeting 2015.

Related 

Video: I Come Alive, https://youtu.be/pbpNeJuswsI

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Trail’s End

Trail’s End
Fire Ants.  Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Fire Ants. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Trail’s end,
journey done,
land devoid, arid, and barren.

Pause. Deep breath. Immersed.

Flowing life,
clinging marsh,
carved precipice.

Humming dragons,
chittering Junco,
chalky flood wall.

Fire ants toiling,
fuzzy worms moving,
phacelia and monkey flower.

Fuzzy Worm.  Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Fuzzy Worm. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Sun warms,
cooling breeze,
aromatic sage.

Pause. Deep breath. Immersed.

Trail’s end,
spirit washed,
into the province of life.

 

Immersed.  Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Immersed. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

View additional photos on Flickr.

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Breathing in the Journey 

Breathing in the Journey 
Journey. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Journey. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Though productive and gratifying my spirit and body were ready for a sabbath hike at the end of the day. With thoughts of wafting sage and a murmuring river, I began filling water bottles and checking my pack.

Making a “just in case” stop before heading the twenty-five miles to our local state park, I watched as the energy of out-of-towners turned our small town gas station abuzz. Some smiled; many looked pained and stressed.

The station manager smiled at me and I her. It was a holiday weekend at the only gas stop for fifty miles. Our small talk while she pumped multiple cars revealed that though it was still before four, she’d been chewed out several times by stressed holiday-goers.

Refreshing. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Refreshing. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Once filled, I headed down to the park. As I passed wheatfields, the old abandoned homestead, a parishioner’s ranch, and the wind farms I noted actual traffic on our two-lane highway. I waved at the sheriff as I slowed to pass him writing a ticket.

The thought emerged as I made the twenty-five minute drive but impressed itself upon my brain as I walked the quiet trails in the canyon. My holidays are significantly different than those of others. We’ve long since given up stress-cations and are healthier for it.

Walking quietly along the trail, I listened to the gurgling river, the singing birds, and humming insects. The stress of my day flowed out of me with each footfall. Respite is not tied to a place; it is in the journey. My sabbath began as I filled my water bottles and stopped for gas. My healing was jump started by smiles and small talk at the gas station.

The friendly wave from the sheriff and the nod from the woman leaving the trailhead are not a means to an end. They are the sabbath itself.

I hope that the hurrying masses find the peace they need when finally arriving where they’re going on this holiday weekend but I wonder. I wonder if they might have more joy if they slowed down and breathed in the journey rather than fighting it.

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The Angst of Sunday Afternoons

The Angst of Sunday Afternoons
Mt. Jefferson. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Mt. Jefferson. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

In my household it is assumed that anything I say on Sunday afternoons is taken with not only a grain of salt but the whole shaker. Following the emotional build up to morning worship, I fall off the cliff in the time it takes me to get to my home three blocks away.

I am self-critical. Feelings of discouragement descend upon my whole being. I parse what I said; I parse the words of others. My perceptions of self and events lean negative.

I am unreliable. I have little faith in the divine and I take upon myself responsibility for everything. Everything is my fault. Everything.

***

Mondays I take responsibility for as little as possible. They are days for trusting the divine to heal me. They are days for trusting the work will get done without me.

The sin of failing to sabbath is that of believing that God and others cannot manage without me. It is to ignore the way in which I was created. It is to ignore God.

My salvation comes through trusting in the healing one. In faithfulness to sabbath, my body, mind, and spirit are renewed. I once again have a reasonableness about my being that allows me to take responsibility where it is mine and no more. Restorative sabbath leads me to living more fully as the unique human being I was created to be.

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Power Off

Power Off

Power out.
Dinner to prepare.
“Don’t open that fridge! You’ll let the cold out!”

The lawn chaise calls.
Afternoon breeze blows across my toes.
The leaves sing their praises to the summer wind moving in their midst.

Six foot high corn tassels wiggle in the sunshine.
Ten foot sunflowers dance and bend as if palms waving Hosannas to a king!
Birds sing. Arachnids weave their webs. Insects buzz from bloom to bloom.

The gentle breath of God tousles my hair, tickles my toes, and strokes my cheek.

Power out.
A moment of Sabbath within the breath of the One.

A spider spins its web along a trail in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A spider spins its web along a trail in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A bumblebee moves from sunflower to sunflower at Rasmussen Farm in Hood River County, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A bumblebee moves from sunflower to sunflower at Rasmussen Farm in Hood River County, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A sunflower field at Rasmussen Farm in Hood River county, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A sunflower field at Rasmussen Farm in Hood River County, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Sabbath Moods

Sabbath Moods

As my level of fatigue increases, my positivity decreases. When I am tired I self-judge harshly, my self-esteem goes down, and I am less tolerant of imperfections in others. This is particularly true of the fatigue that comes from of a lack of adequate sleep. That is, hard work and fatigue from physical exertion do not have as strong an impact on my mood if I’m getting proper sleep.

Photo by Tim Graves
Photo by Tim Graves

God, as experienced by our ancient kindred of the faith, desires us to have periodic rest so that we can regenerate not only our bodies but our spirits.

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. Genesis 2:3 CEB

Work can be done for six days, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of special rest, a holy occasion. You must not do any work on it; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord. Leviticus 23:3 CEB

We need sleep and rest so that we can be the people we are created to be. This may be the greatest sin of our twenty-first century western lifestyle in which we are always connected. We don’t get the rest and sleep that we need to be kind to one another and ourselves.

Though it is not the whole answer, I wonder if the rampant polarization and evils that we see in our world might be lessened if we took better care of ourselves. I wonder if we were all better rested, we might be more tolerant and loving.

God of the Sabbath: We confess our always-on lifestyles contradict your will for us. May we trust you that six days is enough. May we take better care of ourselves, keeping sabbath rest sacred. Amen.