Remaining in place is not easy when every fiber in your being is screaming “get out of here!”
Last week I had an 11-mile run on the docket. Christian was at work, however, and I had no two-hour window of kid-freedom to run it. Determined to go as far as I could, I drove to the Y with Cub 4 and Cub 5, and committed to a solid 90 minutes. But three miles in, after not even thirty minutes, I felt spent. My motivation was gone. My legs were tired. My chest was rebelling against me. Absolutely every fiber within me was shouting, “Get off this treadmill, and just go home.”
My running partner’s voice came into my head precisely at that moment. I remembered she had told me that the week before she’d gotten through her 10-mile run by listening to Sunday’s message from church–twice. Would listening to someone talk get me through the next hour of running?
It took some maneuvering to get my sweaty hands to open up my Streelights app (a New Testament Bible app) to the book of James, but I eventually made it there. And pushed play. By the second and third words, a coolness covered my arms, legs and face. The voice of the narrator bringing the words to my ears calmed me, positioned my mind on the message, and helped me simply to remain. I had the thought that this was the Holy Spirit coming upon me, covering me literally with this shiver of insight, and remaining there through the entire book.
I hardly looked at the treadmill for the next hour, nor did I even think about the physical feelings involved in running during that time. Instead, my mind was focused on listening to those words from James, absorbing their essence, and remaining under the Word of the Lord. I remained in that run by abiding in the Word, which ushered me straight into the presence of God, which is perhaps why I instantly felt this coolness, and I’m certain why I experienced calm and being whole.
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH…RUN AWAY?
Remaining isn’t always limited to a 90-minute window, through perseverance through long runs like that do build my endurance in more than just physical ways. That said, remaining in place is not natural for me. Is it for anyone?? I can hear my dad saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” but if I am truthful, when the going gets tough, it’s the wrong kind of going I get to.
When we moved to Nashville five and a half years ago, the going got really tough. And so I got going by packing up my three, three and under, every other month and made the six hour drive home to Indianapolis, where I drove from relative to friend to relatives house visiting the people I knew well. I wanted to be home. I wanted community. I wanted safety. I wanted to be understood. I mostly found people going on with their lives, nothing very inspiring. I look back on those trips and I laugh at myself. What I put myself through in order to fill this desire to connect was insane. I slept in a queen bed with two and sometimes three kids contorted around me, sometimes without air conditioning, sometimes with a cat having first slept in my spot (I’m allergic!) with a wet cloth over my eyes to stop me from itching them. Since we had one car, my leaving Nashville, forced Christian to ride 14 miles each way to Vanderbilt, through hills and rain…before 4 am. By running away, I made life harder, not easier, for myself and for my husband.
It never occurred to me that I was running away instead of remaining. I was running to what I thought would fill me up. It’s a slow process to build community with others in a new town, and I definitely slowed the process even more by taking myself and the kids away so often that first year. Had I remained in one place more weeks than I had, I am certain the friendships and community that did develop and flourish would have blossomed sooner. I too, would have tasted of that goodness sooner!
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, REMAIN IN HIM
Fast forward to now again. I’m still not great at remaining. I quickly advise friends new to town that adjustment does come, that friendships will develop, and that at some point, they will stop thinking of home as whatever other place they might have left their heart (those people we all hold dear). But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle against the idea that I should “get going” and get out of here myself.
I don’t live in a constant desire to return to Indianapolis like I did when we first moved to Nashville. I don’t live in a constant desire to return to my friends in Nashville even, like I first did when we moved to Newburgh. But when the going gets tough, when I hit that threshold of hurt, whether for others or myself, I recognize that familiar desire to find a new home, safe from confusion, judgment, misunderstanding–all those terrible feelings that our emotions can easily drown us in, if we stay there.
Instead of hitting my Zillow app, and instead of sitting in the seat of my soul and letting these feelings overtake my spirit, my mind, and heart, I am called to remain. Remain where? Remain here physically, in this very house, in my community, this school, our church, my gym, Bible studies, and all of that. And how do I do that? Well, opening my Bible again, as cliche as that sounds. It is not up to me to muster up strength or answers as I remain here, any more than it is up to my friends or family to counsel me on the ways of making friends in a new place–everybody knows that to make these friends you absolutely have to stay and do the job of making friends!
Jesus’ words about remaining in him come to life in John 15. He says,
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
So I’m pinning my restless feet down. Instead of spinning on my axis and flooding friends and family with cries of confusion, I open the Word. And what would you know? That same coolness comes over me. I am ushered straight into the presence of God as the Holy Spirit anoints each word and pours out strength, calm, and wholeness once again.