Running to God's pace
Running to God's pace
10 October 2019
As a child growing up in Canada, I was never an athlete. I was naturally clumsy, awkward and uncoordinated. My sister, on the other hand, was the athletic rock star of the family.
I began to feel I just wasn’t built for physical activity and instead turned to music, fashion and anything that sparkled as my outlet. I was quite happy and comfortable in this space. Then life happened.
As a young Salvation Army officer, life was plodding along as my husband and I fully engaged in ministry. Suddenly, I was also the mother of three young children, ministering to a congregation I felt I couldn’t handle. My life was out of balance and I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I loved my life and ministry and I’m usually quite self-aware, but what I didn’t realise was that my perpetual busyness and scheduled life was putting my soul at risk. Loving people is one of my gifts, but unchecked it was slowly destroying me. I was dying inside.
I was constantly tired, binge eating, irritated with my kids, frazzled in ministry, motionless in my faith journey and feeling defective in the journey I thought God had called me to.
I started to lose the ability to keep myself in check and was petrified of myself. The weight of all that was flooding my everyday living and chipping away at my joy, my identity, who I was and who I wanted to be. I wasn’t coping and was becoming unhinged.
One morning I woke up and actually didn’t recognise the space I was in. I decided to run away, literally, as it seemed my best option. So I put on my running shoes, stepped out the front door and began to run.
We were living in St John’s, Newfoundland, and I ran towards the ocean. When I got there I just sat, alone with God and scared. I told him that I didn’t know who I was anymore and asked him what it was that he wanted me to do. Hebrews 12 came into my heart (The Message translation is amazing), especially where it talks about focusing on what Jesus did, and how “... that will shoot adrenalin into your souls”.
In that moment, I needed something to grab hold of that was mine, because I felt I didn’t have control over anything else. I grabbed that portion of Scripture, realised that I needed to get real with my physical and emotional wellbeing and started to set some goals.
What began as a diversion that allowed me to step away from the darkness I felt, quickly became a journey of spiritual awakening and self-discovery. My now-regular morning runs gave me the space to clear my head, wrestle with God, work through my calling and focus on self (something that I had always felt guilty about).
God was revealing himself to me in ways I just couldn’t have imagined. I think running was the only way he could get me to be alone with him and to show me what it means to walk with him at the pace of grace; which essentially, is love.
I began to discover this pace, and as God dealt with me internally and brought me closer to him, the act of running began changing me externally. My energy levels increased, I got stronger and faster and a deep sense of accomplishment gave renewed confidence in my abilities towards motherhood and ministry.
The physical, though, had to come first. It was something I could tangibly measure and work with. By getting control of the physical, I was getting ready to work on my other issues. God was helping me create a balance I didn’t know I needed.
In the (northern) winter of 2017, I set three personal goals: I wanted to start paying attention to what my body took in; register for a 10-mile (16km) race and run a half-marathon (21.1km). All three goals were completed by September 2017, which meant it was time to tackle the next natural step – run a marathon (42.1km).
The London Marathon was a perfect option where my love of running could connect with my calling. I joined The Salvation Army UK Team that was taking part in the race and began raising funds for its fight against homelessness. The added bonus? My parents, General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, lived in London. The logistics were perfect.
Training for the London Marathon was more intense than I could have imagined. It meant balancing training with a busy family and ministry schedule, which translated to 5.30am runs four to five days a week. I made a commitment to my husband, Tim, that I would maintain our ministry time, our family time and our time together. I was determined, too, to change the way I lived.
The training also meant facing the elements in Newfoundland during the winter months – snow, sleet, wind and below-freezing temperatures. It meant carefully following an intense training schedule, tracking and studying mileage and pushing my body beyond its assumed limits. But with the help of my family and the support of my community, I kept pace, completing runs and raising funds.
I found a rhythm that created a beautiful space in my family, my ministry and my faith journey.
The day of the marathon was the hottest for the event on record. After an extremely difficult first 16km, the indescribable encouragement of people along the marathon route calling out my name infused me with energy and strength. I knew I was going to make it.
As I approached the fi>nish line I saw my parents. Their pride for me filled my heart with a deep sense of achievement. I crossed the finish line in tears – the emotions raw and real. I had accomplished something that I never thought possible.
This represented so much more than checking off something on the bucket list. It was a game-changer that refocused my life on so many levels. It mobilised me in ways I didn’t know were possible and helped me raise important funds for a cause close to my heart. The whole experience set me on a path of wholeness and wellness where I have come to understand a rhythm that is aligned with the pace of grace.
I can now live in the present without perfection. I know who I am in Christ and am learning to keep myself in check, and balance my ministry, personal life and goals, and time with God. I am real with the people I serve, which has been the most freeing.
I have rediscovered joy in doing the things I am gifted in, and the beauty in recognising the gifts and capacities of others.
Tim and I firmly believe that this whole experience was preparing us for our surprise move to Australia in January 2018. On our first Sunday at Carindale we told our new congregation about our journey and shared some reflections, assuring them that we’d never been in a better space in our marriage, as an officer couple and as a family. We’re living holistically – body, mind, soul and spirit.
It’s often when the demands of life become so great that we lose ourselves in the journey and don’t recognise ourselves anymore. Knowing the person God created us to be is the greatest asset we have, and discovering – or rediscovering – who we are with God is the foundation of who we are. Knowing this has enabled me to align myself with God. Next April, I am running the London Marathon again.
My new goal is to do it in less than four hours. The journey continues.