- Aileen McKernan
And so I Ran Again
I didn’t feel particularly strong when I started my morning run today. I didn’t know what to expect having lifted for my legs at the gym yesterday for the first time in fifteen years. I didn’t gain any momentum when I started either. I stopped often taking pictures of the surrounding beauty, the morning fog clinging to the lake, the inlet abandoned by the geese that normally nest there.
When I finished at four miles I was happy with what I had done, but just like a gauge on a fuel tank, I knew I had quite a bit of reserve left to give. As I peeled my orange, I calculated my options. I had a lot of errands I wanted to run and things to take care of around the house. But it was a gorgeous Saturday and I couldn’t help but feel the hand of God inviting me deeper into his heart for me, deeper into some lesson to learn.
By the time I ate half of my orange, I had gained a certain amount of surety that I was going to run again. In soccer I would have just finished half time, had a similar snack and some water, and hit the field again. Granted distance running is not the same as soccer but having finished the fall soccer season strong I felt confident I could continue my run. I turned my GPS on my phone back on as well as my map my run app and started moving my feet.
And so I ran again.
As I made it up a hill I couldn’t ascend even a week ago, I started meditating on where the Lord has brought me from a decision I made to take a single step of unconscious faith, really of a decision born out of frustration waiting on Him for the miraculous. It was not the step I took last year to start running regularly again. It started about 8 years ago.
I herniated a disc in my low back when I was 24 years old (a lot longer than 8 years ago!). I was training for a marathon at the time. Over training coupled with core weakness set me up for a perfect injury. One evening I bent over to pick up a laundry basket and I felt searing pain in my back. Anyone who has herniated a disc knows the agony of those first few moments of the herniation, trying to assess what just happened to you as your back spasms and you are immobilized by crippling pain.
My boyfriend at the time offered to take me to the Emergency Department. Proud, I shut the pain out and chose to suffer through it in the moment and for months afterward. I even stubbornly continued to train for the marathon and work out despite having radiating pain to my left knee. Subconsciously I thought it was my fault. I was in an ungodly relationship, I shouldn’t have been at his house. I shouldn’t have been doing what I was doing. I was so used to feeling guilt and shame for my existence that not only was this my fault, this was just a symptom of a core belief that somehow everything was my fault - even my existence that I was so apologetic for.
I couldn’t get help and if it was bad enough to actually get help, I wouldn’t have been able to receive the full measure of help and healing because of my shame-based identity. I was cut off from Love and receiving blessings and healing for myself. I didn’t think it was possible for me. I felt like I didn’t deserve good things in my life.
Years went by. I suffered in chronic pain, first through physical therapy school where immobility, stress, and another unhealthy relationship magnified my symptoms and then working as a Physical Therapist, bending, squatting, lifting, moving other people’s bodies to facilitate healing and ironically often successfully for the same injury I was suffering with. Healing for my own back eluded me to my own chagrin despite knowing what to do for others.
Halfway through Physical Therapy school, I radically encountered the peace and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and my story started to take a different turn. A turn towards believing in Love and that this Love was for me, and that healing was for me. By the time I moved to Virginia after Physical Therapy school my mind was beginning to be renewed by the scriptures, and I saw more clearly that God was a God of Love and Healing. The word says He sent forth His word and healed ALL of the diseases of the Israelites (Psalm 107:20, Jeremiah 30:17). Jesus likewise demonstrated God’s Love by healing the masses wherever He went. In one instance a man was so desperate for healing his friends lowered him through a roof to get a front audience with Jesus (Matthew 9:1–8, Mark 2:1–12, and Luke 5:17–26). Did Jesus turn them away? I think He marveled at their faith before He did what the scriptures recorded. He healed the paralytic and everyone else that was at the home and in that city that needed it that day.
I started to believe, really believe that supernatural healing was possible for others and maybe, maybe for me too. I hoped so even if I wasn’t 100% sure if I really believed it. I was banking on some miraculous encounter with God at a prayer meeting, or in worship, or in professing truth as I read and heard of testimonies of other people being healed through the miraculous. I imagined I’d be in a conference and a speaker would have a word of knowledge about me and my back pain as I had seen someone else being healed for before. It never happened. Sure, people prayed for me and it felt better for a little bit, and I had learned a few things through the years to get by, but I continued to suffer flare ups.Upset, angry, frustrated are good words to describe how I felt about my back and at God for my delay in this miraculous healing.
Not long after I moved to Virginia, I was in yet another codependent relationship. I loved that man with all of my heart – or so I thought. I loved just being around him. He had everything I thought I wanted. He was a handsome African American male, had a stable career, home, and had young children of his own. It was like a perfect walk in wife and mom situation. I didn’t want my own children at the time. Being with William was ideal. As an older male, he didn’t want more children either. It was perfect. But it wasn’t.
He was critical, harsh, and withdrawing of love despite the laughter and good times we could have together. We kept it together on the outside for the twins’ sake. They didn’t need any more trauma than they had been through with their bipolar mother who abandoned them and didn’t have any contact with them. I wanted to really be there for them. Eventually the cracks showed, and we went our separate ways. The breakup was devastating. He was the hardest thing I ever had to let go of. I remember mourning and grieving in that season and going through healing for my heart.
Slowly God started to reveal more of His heart for me and I was able to receive more healing and transformation for my mind and emotions. As that happened, I started to realize I wanted my own children and the beliefs I had previously held were based on fear. My mother was bipolar, and she couldn’t take care of me. I was afraid that I would abandon my children the way my mother wasn’t there for me and my siblings. That’s why I was afraid to have my own children.
As His Love began to work on my heart regarding having my own children, I realized that having back pain was connected to my reproductive health. That my back condition would be a weakness or a possible impediment to that happening...because every woman who has given birth know it takes a strong back and pelvic floor to push their babies through the birth canal. After my back injury I developed pelvic floor weakness as evident in stress incontinence. Whenever I would sneeze or cough too hard, I leaked a little urine. It was embarrassing and it stressed me out at the idea of the future of carrying and trying to have children.
One evening not long after the breakup with William, I was suffering a back flare up. Crying, I angrily demanded of God that He would heal me right that moment, “I’m not getting off this floor until You heal me.” I distinctly remember verbalizing that my suffering was also connected to my desire to be healthy to have children. No answer came. No lightning bolt from heaven. No healing. No relief of pain. I can’t even say I felt God’s comfort and consolation as I often do in such moments where no manifest answer is evident.
Well, "Ok," I thought "I’m a Physical Therapist. There are Women’s Health Physical Therapists who can help women with weak pelvic floors and stress incontinence." I decided that if God wasn’t going to give me my miracle, I was going to take matters into my own hands. I did. I scheduled an evaluation with a Women’s Health PT.
And you know what? That step set off a cascade of change towards healing that at that time didn’t seem all that miraculous or all that God. That step was a step of empowerment that drove me deeper into God’s Love for me, for me to be fit and strong again for myself and for my future babies. It might not have been a lightening bolt miracle, but it was still Him, the God of the extraordinary and the God of the ordinary leading and guiding me to take the step I did that day whether I realized it at the time or not.
He led me to the women’s health specialist who taught me stretches among other exercises I began to do every day. Those stretches led to postural changes. My body became worse for a season as it was shifting back to how it was supposed to be in alignment! As I worked out the kinks in my muscle alignment, I developed a shoulder problem due to postural changes that I had to go to yet another Physical Therapist for!
It has been a long journey from there to here. Despite twists and turns, unexpected roadblocks, and moments of clarity, I can see the continuity of God’s hand and God’s heart for me leading me forward to where I now am today, towards Love, towards growth, towards healing.
In that journey I lost the baggage of unbelief that God didn’t love me or didn’t see me or didn’t care for me when I picked up that laundry basket that day when I was mired in sin or that it was somehow all my fault.
His word in Isaiah 53:10-12 says:
…When You make His [JESUS’] soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
The Father is glad in me through His son Jesus Christ. My sins are forgiven. I am His and He gave me a brain and a body and common sense and His counsel to take care of myself with. Sometimes I’m not always sure what’s at work, if it’s me making decisions or if He’s leading me or how it all works. But I do know that He has saved my soul, He is ever at work making intercession for me to continue to carry on and to prosper and to work all things for my good (Romans 8:28) even when I'm not sure what's going on or that it seems like I can’t go one more step.
That day when I was crying out to Him on the floor whether I saw it or not at that moment, I can now clearly see it was Him who gave me the strength, determination, and wisdom to continue to carry on, to seek out help, to take a step towards what I believed for me and my ability to be healthy and have children of my own.
So I got off the floor and ran again at that moment 8 years ago. And I ran again today, from a little bit of a different position, full of confidence in the work He has done in me. I ran again today further and faster than the first four miles, full of His joy and delight in me with the strongest back and core I’ve ever had. No matter what lies ahead in the area of marriage and children, I know He lies within me and I have His strength to carry on.
May that be your blessing and song in 2020.
For further thought:
In what area of your life have you cried out to God waiting for a miracle or breakthrough and haven’t received it yet?
What practical step can you take towards receiving His blessing and benefit in this area?