They knew I was a newbie the moment I stepped out of my car in sweats, an old pair of sneakers, a dark-colored hoodie, and a scarf. And so did I, once I glanced at the women as they tightening the laces on their running sneakers, readied playlists on their iPods, and showed each other their new compression socks.
I had agreed to run with a friend when she told me she was a member of a popular running club created just for women of color. It was January, freezing cold, and I was beginning to think that I had made a huge mistake by agreeing to do this. What am I doing here? I asked myself as I stood there trying to figure out a way to get back in my car and drive home.
“Okay ladies,” said our Team Leader said, interrupting my thoughts and my escape. “Tonight, we’re going to run three miles. Move to the front if you’re training for a marathon, stick to the back if you’re wogging (walking/jogging). Remember, leave no woman behind.” And with that, we were off!
Five minutes in I knew I was in trouble. My eyes were watering from the cold, my legs felt like lead, and I couldn’t breathe. All I wanted to do was to stop running and go home. “Candance, take a deep breath and don’t panic,” my friend told me. She could tell I was struggling and offered me advice to help me regain my focus. “Ok…got it…I think,” I responded. I inhaled, taking the cold air into my lungs. “Just breathe, Candance. Breathe,” I said to myself.
Soon, I developed a rhythm: Inhale…exhale…inhale…exhale…inhale…exhale, and gathered my composure enough to be astounded by the fact that I was running. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. And in that moment, I knew I was hooked.
The season of Lent is a lot like my first running experience. Initially, I looked at the 40 days without that thing from which God told me to fast and thought there was no way I could make it, but that’s not true. First, I had to stop comparing my journey to everyone else’s. “They” may have more experience with fasting through Lent because "they’ve" done it before, but "they" had to start somewhere, and when "they" did, "they" looked just like me: intimidated, unsure of myself, but determined to make it through in order to embrace what God has for me.
Once Lent began, I had to breathe through the temptation to turn back. The enemy can be very crafty, trying to convince me to give in “just this once”. Instead of panicking in those moments, I have to remind myself about what God says in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, [BUT} when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”. God already knows my weaknesses, and he knows when the enemy will try to deceive me, so he provides me a way out of the temptation. I just need to be aware, and be willing to take the exit, when temptation comes my way.
Once I get past temptation, I enter the space where God can do the most work. I am focused on Him, reading His word, communicating with the Lord through prayer, and benefiting from this 40-day retreat with God on all levels. I am inhaling and exhaling the presence of God, not wanting to go back to the way I used to be. This is where we develop our stride, running toward the Lord, breathing in His presence, developing the stamina we need to make it through the fast, strengthening our spiritual muscles so God can gently push us to the next level of faith.
There is no other place I would rather be these 40 days. What about you?
Are you observing Lent this year? Share your triumphs and the things you’ve overcome with all of us. Also, please take a moment to read the other Selah blogs in my Lenten series “It’s Worth the Fast: What Are You Willing to Give Up for Christ?” for a little encouragement along the way.