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  • Aileen McKernan

Finding Joy

In case you didn't know, I've taken to the trails more than the road on my runs recently. As a consequence I've had to adjust many things including my expectations for increasing my mileage. It simply takes longer on the trail to cover the same ground mileage because of the varied terrain, challenging ascents, deep descents, roots, rocks, and other unpredictable conditions I encounter. As a result I've been forced to shift my mindset regarding my running pace.

When I started running regularly a year ago I ran at a lumbering 12:30 pace. I felt like a dinosaur out there but as I dropped some pounds and gained some traction I was able to improve my pace. By the fall I was running 10:00-10:30 minute miles for 6-8 miles and I was starting to break 10 minute miles at times. It was super satisfying.

Late fall is about the time the love of trail running started creeping in. I found myself routinely heading to the hills and lakes rather than hitting the pavement. Running 14 minute and 15 minute miles I had to confront and let go of the frustration to achieve a mileage or maintain a pace. I had to abandon my metrics and feel out the runs with the rhythm of my body.

It wasn't all that painful to let go of, I was too absorbed in the joy of discovery, of the sun rises and sets, the stunning scenery, the sense of accomplishment when I could run up a climb I couldn't previously, and many other things. Pure trail running pleasure overtook any inclination to count, to log, to push from an external measurement vs an intrinsic motivation.

It reminds me of the scripture that it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus despised the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

I can't really compare my letting go of mileage and pace to the shame and suffering Christ endured on the cross, but it is the joy of my journey on the trails that enables me to let go of some supposed outcome or the difficulties I encounter. And it is the joy in my journey on the trails that enables me to go further and make gains with each adventure into the outback I take. Likewise when we embrace the joy of why we're doing something, we can get through the most difficult things.

What Jesus embraced over 2000 years ago was the Joy of knowing that when he got through the cross, there would be life for us on the other side. We were His Joy on that arduous trail of suffering.

Surely in spite of a global pandemic we are currently navigating with disrupted economies and schedules and paychecks there is a JOY to be embraced that can see us through this crisis. Many right now are focused on just getting to the other side, back to the way things were, to normal. There has been devastating losses and adjustments. But the normal we'll return to is going to be different and no amount of wishing it would come quickly will make the time pass any faster. If we just slow down, abandon our paces and our mileages and our expectations, grieve what we've lost and take a moment to find our Why, to find and appreciate the Joy that will get us through, no doubt the resurrection will come, more glorious than we've experienced before.

You see I hit the roads yesterday evening, the first time in a long time and I ran with a vigor and strength I've never previously experienced and never would have if I hadn't let go and enjoyed the sheer pleasure of running on those more difficult days. I know the same will be true when the Lord who is faithful sees me through this trial called covid-19 and the many that surely will come on this side of my life. But I'll tell you a little secret… my Why isn't for the vigor and strength that such challenges hew in me, I'm running because I believe the goodness in Life far outweighs anything the dark tries to dampen. That is my Exceeding Joy.

What is your Joy this Resurrection Morn?

Happy Easter with love and blessings.

In this life you will have many trials, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world. John 16:33

The darkness and the light are both alike to You. Psalm 139:12

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