Why I No Longer Envy Those Who Can Still Run

Her stride was smooth as silk. From my road-side view she appeared to be gliding. Her cadence was graceful. Her posture was perfectly aligned. Her arms pumped back and forth in a controlled yet relaxed rhythm. Even her breathing looked effortless. She was running tall and strong. With her every fluid movement forward I became more and more jealous. It has been months since I’ve traveled at more than a speed walk. The last time I attempted to run I felt so weak and fatigued I barely completed a mile. At the end of my pathetic run, my left side was flared, my lungs were winded and I felt more whopped than energized.

Every fiber of my compromised being screamed out at me, “No more!” I walked through the door, untied my running sneakers and stuck them in a box downstairs. I didn’t even need a few days and a drink of water to contemplate my running future. I knew it was over. That fateful day of running surrender was months ago and still the sight of strong, healthy, capable runners brings me sadness. I used to be like them. I used to be healthy, too. I wasn’t always a slave to my body. But now I am and some days it utterly breaks my heart. Not every day is spent pining after the health I don’t have, but I can’t claim jealousy immunity.

When I am feeling particularly weak, limited and fatigued I ache at the core of my being for a new physical body. I long for powerful muscles in my legs and a layer (or two) of cushioning surrounding my gaunt frame. I wish my body were different – not this stick of a figure constantly at the mercy of a faulty digestive system and fritzy muscles. But wishing and hoping won’t bring my running sneakers out of retirement and up from the basement. Longing and yearning can’t change my body’s condition and won’t touch my fragile weight. So I have a choice: watch the runners glide by with resentment, jealousy and angst in my heart, or rejoice because they can glide. Celebrate because they can stride.

I can choose to be happy for the healthy. Jealousy is a destructive emotion. It has no benefactors and doesn’t do anyone any good. The jealous person might as well drink poison. The coveted person might as well drink a hot chocolate. One gets warmth and the other gets a cold heart and a dead spirit. As I’ve watched runners bound past my car window for months, I have taken a sip of poison with every stride, but I’m putting down the bottle and picking up the mug. I’m going to drink something warm like a hot coffee. Black, no cream. Resenting their physical capabilities has done nothing but harm my own heart and hasn’t helped my health. There has been and will be no benefit to my jealousy, so why drink the poison? No matter what the future holds for my running shoes I have reason to rejoice because I believe God blesses feet, not shoes, and smiles down on runners, speed-walkers and wheelchair drivers just the same. I believe God is the God of bodies regardless of speed. So I will move at the pace I believe God has set for me and rejoice in it because this is the pace He has made especially for me.

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