Today, on one of the prettiest days autumn has given us so far, I went for a run in the park. At .2 miles I felt completely spent. Considering I am supposedly training for a 10K, this wasn't very promising. I pushed on however, racing against the clock and keeping careful track of the .1 mile markers which seemed to come every mile or so.
About a mile into my run, I ran past a particularly lovely vista, a field full of purple flowers and yellow leaves, framed by rolling hills and brilliant orange autumn trees. As I ran by, I saw an overgrown side path, leading not past the scene but into it. And so deciding that I was not making very good time anyway, I decided to follow it. Occasionally, because it seemed the thing to do in such a beautiful place, I would even lift up my arms and spin or take flying leaps, "wasting" precious energy that could have gotten me closer to my perceived goal. Though beautiful, it was hard work running that path. As I ran I had to lift my legs high in order not to trip in the tall grasses. The path circled around the field and eventually brought me back to the gravel trail, which suddenly felt easy to run in comparison.
It's fun to fill out a phrase in the doing and living that used to be only conceptual. Today I discovered that "finding your stride" is a real experience, one that I've never really had before as a runner. After my extra-curricular journey, my body found a rhythm--my legs, my lungs, my arms--and I ran farther than I have in a long time with relative ease. It felt amazing, and it was wonderful to be able to enjoy creation (including my creaturely self) in a way I just couldn't when I first started my run.
I won't spend long drawing out the metaphor. For now, it is sufficient to say that it is always worth it to accept God's invitations to take the path of joy, even if it is the longer route or even if it ends up being more difficult than you imagine.
At the end of my run, I saw an old man and an old woman holding hands just beginning the trail. He was leaning on her for support and cradling a chicken in his arms. I'm not sure where that scene fits into my allegorical journey, except to say that mystery always has the final word of every metaphor. And that is the way it should be.