I awake to my alarm at 6:15 a.m. and realize that today is Thanksgiving. This fact doesn’t really change things – well, except that having a day off during the week in late November allows me to run in daylight when it’s not quite as frigid. For that, I am thankful. But to be perfectly truthful, I’m thankful for every day I wake up. I’m thankful for every day I can stand and walk and run. In a weird way, I feel like it’s my responsibility to run – to run for those who cannot.
As I’m heading up the first hill on Titan Road, I look to the east and wish the the sun wasn’t being so shy today. Her rays are slowly peeking out from the cloud-scattered horizon and with each ray that the clouds randomly release, I feel a little warmer and a little lighter. I think about how incredible it is that the sun rises every day to brighten and warm our lives. For the first time in 10 years, I think about God.
Until the age of 14, I knew no religion. My only experience was a few beautiful Sunday mornings where my Nana and Grampy would take me to the Presbyterian Church. I was about 10 I think. All I remember was that I got to sit in between the two most loving people I knew – engulfed in their smell, their touch, and their warmth. When I was a second-semester Freshman, my parents randomly enrolled me in St. John Vianney Catholic High School. I had no school-issued uniform and no understanding of God. Secretly, I asked one of my grade-school friends if she would write down all the prayers we had to recite before every class. I memorized them like a champ. But, I still knew no God.
By high school graduation, I was Catholic – at least in my heart. I prayed. I volunteered. I cared about those less fortunate. But, according to every Catholic, I was not Catholic in God’s eyes because I had not completed the seven sacraments. I was not yet disillusioned by their views. I continued to go to Mass, to pray to a God that I was still trying to understand, and baptized my first child in the Catholic Church. But, I was not at peace. I could not make sense of God. Religion, I understood. I understood the community of the church, and loved it. I understood that people needed hope and healing and help in so many ways. What I didn’t understand was how God was responsible for this.
But running today makes me wonder how all of THIS is possible – the peacefulness of the morning, the vast plains on the east, and the mysterious mountains on the west. I understand the science of the universe but everyone always says there’s something more to its formation. Today, I wonder if there is. My story and the unanswered questions flip through my mind like an old-fashioned movie reel as I head back down my final hill. The sun is completely covered by the clouds now and it feels much colder. Then, the movie of my mind focuses in on the recent serendipitous events that led me to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Reverend Billy Graham.
It was a Friday morning in October and I was running on the treadmill. “Morning Joe” was on the TV screen above my head. I don’t usually watch TV when I run, but something made me look up and a segment called “Faith on Fridays” caught my attention. Pastor Tullian was being interviewed about his latest book called, “One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.” He spoke about Grace – defined for laymen as “unconditional love – the love of God.” His message, although much more eloquent, is that a relationship with God provides a love with no conditions. He talked about how exhausted we are as a society and how understanding God’s Grace can help set us free – if we believe.
I was intrigued. I sent Tullian a Tweet about the show and within a day, he had written me and asked me to provide him with my address so he could send me a book. We had several email exchanges that were so hopeful that I couldn’t wait to get the book. As I write this, I am reading it – slowly. I’m reading every word and re-reading what I don’t get. I’m taking notes and trying to understand a God that I’ve never met.
By the time I am a half-mile from home where the kids will be rubbing the dreams from their eyes and the coffee will still be hot, I am saying a prayer. I notice the rhythm of my footfalls as I silently thank the world or the universe or maybe God for my life – for all the laundry that’s piled up, for all the dishes I need to put away, for the vacuuming that I’ve been putting off, and for all the emails that I’ve yet to answer. I open my front door and breathe deeply. I am blessed to have it all.