These exact verses in came to mind for me one weekend while running my first “real” trail race in Afton, MN. I had run many races over the past several years from 5Ks to marathons, but they had been on the road. This particular year, however, I had begun running trails. There is something especially fabulous about running on dirt and over rocks, roots and rivers. I am frequently amazed and grateful for the beauty that exists right here in Minnesota, and trail running is a great way to experience God’s creation.
The other thing that had been experiencing at this time was a recurring, no- make that nagging – calf pain. Sometimes it’s so bad, that my calf muscle would freeze, immediately stopping me in my tracks. Having visited chiropractors and massage therapists about this issue, I learned that what was going on was that tiny tears in the muscle weren’t being given the proper chance to heal, so they ended up scarring. After numerous little, seemingly harmless tears scar over, the scar tissue builds up and it begins to form knots in the muscle. If further neglected, these scars get in the way of the muscle performing properly and eventually – that’s right, stop you in your tracks (or on the trail).
That’s where I was, just about 3 miles into a 15.5 mile trail race, when my neglected scar tissue fought back with a vengeance, refusing to allow me to run one step further. I limped off to the side of the trail to make room for the runners coming up behind me. Many offered words of encouragement, likely thinking I was walking because I was tired or too hot to run. It was around the 5 mile mark when 1 Thessalonians 5:18 popped into my head. As I hobbled along, I told the Lord I was thankful in this circumstance. I prayed that He would use this situation for His glory. I offered some suggestions, like complete and instant healing followed by miraculous speed to go on and win my age group! I thought this was a great suggestion. I also offered God the suggestion that He could use this time to speak to me –audibly – you know, like how He spoke to Moses through a burning bush. I saw many bush burning opportunities around me. Maybe He could tell me how He was going to use me to set His people free!
I finally arrived at the aid station where I had to inform a race official that I was pulling out of the race. At this point my race number and timing chip were removed; then someone pointed me to the parking lot. This was quite humiliating and I could not see glory for anyone in this circumstance.
Once home, I knew that the only way I would be able to successfully run again, without this maddening interruption, was to address the scar tissue. If I didn’t completely break down this scar tissue and allow the muscle to heal, I would continue to experience setbacks, and possibly, permanently damage my calf. Hmmm…sounds a little allegorical doesn’t it? Most of us, I would even venture to say all of us, have experienced some form of pain in our life that we have allowed to scar over. Over the years, the scar tissue builds up, continually reminding us of a former pain that has marked itself with an intrusive scar, causing its own pain and damage. In the physical, the way to deal with scar tissue is to strip it down. This may involve another person pressing down, very hard, on the scar tissue and sliding up and down on the scar until it finally breaks down. Another way is to use an instrument shaped like a rod. You hold onto each end of the rod, press down very hard and roll it over the scar tissue – over and over again. If the scars haven’t built up for too long, they can be broken down in just a few sessions. If the scars have built up over a long period of time and have developed into large knots, it will likely take even more sessions. Either way, there is no avoiding the pain.
How often have we avoided dealing with a pain from our past? Some of us have developed so much scar tissue that there seems to be no way that anyone could come in and cause any more damage. That is, of course, until the scar tissue stops us in our tracks, forcing us to break it down and look at what created the scar in the first place. It’s a very painful exercise, but in order to move forward, it must be done. Once the scars have been peeled away, revealing the original wound, true healing can begin and continual maintenance is needed to prevent future scars. In running, that means taking in proper nutrition, strength training and rest. In our spiritual lives, that means taking in God’s Word (reading the Bible), getting stronger by putting God’s Word into practice, and resting in His presence through prayer and mediation.
I did, indeed, find reason to give thanks in the circumstance of my race interruption. By being forced to deal with the nagging scar tissue, my calves were able to fully heal, and I am a stronger runner today because of it.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help me to be joyful always – because You love me, to pray continually – because You hear me, and to give thanks in all circumstances – because You are with me – for this is Your will for me in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray – Amen.