This past weekend was the Illinois Marathon, an event that I used to run every year. It was a tradition to do the 5k, 10k, or half-marathon with one of my best friends. We would train and encourage each other from a distance (we live 150 miles apart), eagerly anticipating the uninterrupted “girl time” that we would get to share while running together on race day. It was always a fun race weekend and a family affair, but I haven’t run it in 3 years…
I chose to quit due to an eating/body image disorder and a wrecked thyroid. Running had taken a front seat to everything else in my life, and it became a trigger for binge eating and body shaming. I was stuck in a bizarre dance with several elements: the euphoria of accomplishment; “rewarding” myself with sugar binges after long training runs; appeasing the massive running-induced appetite increase with indulgent foods; intense regret from binging on said foods; starvation, obsession, and over-exercising to regain “control” of my body; relief when the number on the scale came back down…and then the crazy cycle would start over again.
I needed to face the reality that was driving my behaviors. My body image and insane exercise regime had become an idol in my life, which was a difficult thing to admit. I didn’t want it to be true! How could this have happened? I tried to get off of the crazy train many times, but the anxiety of giving up “control” had me quickly jumping back on board. I was stuck, and it was time to honestly answer some questions. Did I really want to be free? I mean, really? Was I truly ready for radical “heart” surgery, and willing to do whatever it took to be free?
In order to reset my life, it would mean giving up the things that I was clinging to – for as long as it took, maybe even forever. It was time to stop trying to white-knuckle my way through the mental battle. I didn’t have the strength for it anymore. I decided to let God in on my secret…I needed rescuing.
It didn’t happen overnight, but freedom came after I surrendered control. There was something different this time. I traded my weakness for God’s strength, and before the fight began, I boldly claimed victory because it had already been won for me. I laid down the many things that were tripping me up, like running, and trusted that there would be something far better waiting for me when the radical work in me was finished.
Seeing all of my friends’ Facebook race posts this past weekend caused me to pause and consider how I’m feeling 3 years later. What have I learned, and will I ever run again?
The enemy had distorted a perfectly good thing, like running, in order to trap me. The experience rendered me totally ineffective for living out God’s purpose for my life. Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice…well, you know the rest.
But did you know that God is in the business of restoring? All throughout the Bible, there are promises and stories of restoration.
1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
God has restored my health and given me balance. If I run again someday, I must do it in light of all that I have learned. Otherwise, it will make a mockery of what God did for me in that season of radical heart surgery. I have scars, but they are no longer wounds. They serve as reminders, but they don’t hinder me.
I truly miss running with my friend. I miss the thrill of the accomplishment. I miss the girl time!
Running will look very different for me in the future. My focus will be on the freedom I have in Christ, and honoring my body as His temple. This allows me to embrace what was restored; my peace, joy, and freedom…as well as my passion for fitness.
Do you have something that needs to be restored in your life?
My words of encouragement are this: be brave enough to let God do radical heart surgery on you. If there is something in your life that needs to go, don’t be afraid to let it go. Something better will be returned to you!