Are you a runner? Once upon a time I was. Or at least I ran. I wasn't great at running - my legs are too short to have a pretty stride. But I ran. And as I ran, I could hear the voices in my head that my friend, Aubrey Sampson writes about. The ones that led her - and lead us all - to apologize for being "less than."
By Aubrey Sampson
I remember running for the very first time with a college boyfriend.
"Can't your feet move any faster?" he asked.
They couldn't, actually. I was new to running. I was in theater and student council. I gave speeches and performed one-acts and made documentaries with my artsy friends. I didn't jog in my spare time. And I certainly didn't know I could or would improve as a runner with time and patience and years of practice.
"Don't be discouraged if you never get any better." He said, genuinely trying to encourage me. "Some people are runners. It's in their genes. Others, like you, just aren't."
I believed him for a long time. I was officially classified: defined in terms of being not something. If he was a runner, I was a non-runner, a non-athlete, and by extension, a non-anything.
I went home after that humiliating first attempt at jogging and wrote down a list, a litany of my life, a justification of my worth.
That list, it was full: I'd been in love. I'd seen Bob Dylan in concert. I memorized the Henry V prologue. I backpacked through Great Britain. I had a great family. I adored Christmas and beauty and literature.
I read it to him under the stars that night. All of it saying, "Love me. Want me. See me. Think I'm something. Be okay with me even though I can't keep up with you."
In the end, he didn't.
In the end, that was the goodness of God.
Years later, my husband encouraged me to pick up running again. As we were out jogging together for the first time, I kept apologizing for myself. "I'm not fast enough. I'm not a runner. You don't have to stay with me. Go ahead."
He finally stopped mid-stride, exasperated, "Aubrey, you're out running. That makes you a runner. Period."
It was so simple to him. And truly, I wish I would have understood that concept all those years ago. I mean, if I was at the store shopping-even if another customer had been bargain-hunting a lot longer than I had, or was purchasing more items than me, or had more resources in her wallet-I'd still be a shopper, by the very nature of the fact that I was in the store shopping. Period.
It's been over a decade since that first run with my sweet husband. And until recently my feet have hit the pavement for years-never long, never graceful, never fast-but running regularly, nonetheless. In fact these days, my joints are weakened from years of jogging. I've even been forced to take a break. Who would have guessed? I have become a runner simply because I kept running. I have the injuries to prove it.
The prophet Isaiah lovingly reminds us, "Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband-the Lord Almighty is his name-the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife." (Isaiah 54:4-6a NIV)
In other words, running or never running again, I have no need to justify my existence before the night sky and a pointless boyfriend, because I am beloved. Not because I am flawless; not because I never struggle. Simply because I'm loved by God. Period.
My Maker, Husband, and Redeemer has transformed my past and my shame and all my lists into radiance, dignity, and joy.
Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women to experience freedom from shame. She is a pastor's wife, a church planter, a ministry event speaker, and a stay-at-home-mom to three sons (which is to say she spends most days in her pajamas drinking too much coffee). A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey's first book,Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul, just released and is available through your favorite retailer. You can connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.