When I open my eyes, I am confused that I can see with such clarity – from the neon numbers on the alarm clock to the headlights marching in a line outside my window, to the waning moon. On this day, they are not the usual smudge of light or dark, the way one sees things when they are legally blind. They are sharp, crisp, and in focus. How can this be?
It takes me only a few seconds to realize that I fell asleep the night before with my glasses on and my iPhone in my hand. It’s now 5:44 a.m. How is it possible that I slept through the night like this? I groggily pull the glasses off my face and snuggle back under the covers, but as soon as I do, the alarm begins to chime. It’s actually time to get up.
My gut reaction is to be annoyed. But then it occurs to me that this is actually a pretty incredible way to start the day – with rare and unusual clarity. This is a blessing that I do not want to get lost in the mundane. To see clearly. To have clarity. Yes, today, I will not only look, but I will see. This will be my running mantra I declare as I slide out of bed and dump over the laundry basket in search of clean running clothes.
“Look around, but really see,” I think as I pull my tangled mass of hair into a ponytail and try to rub the dark circles out from under my eyes. On this Tuesday in September, I will endeavor to be uber-present in this life – vigilantly mindful of the world around me and how it is stitched together to create a perfect tapestry of oneness.
I’ve been running since I was 13, but it has taken different forms and served different purposes depending upon the season of my life. I once ran because I was competitive. I was fat. I was inadequate. I was depressed. I was lost. It took me many years to realize why I was truly drawn to it – so drawn to it that I would eagerly fall asleep at night in anticipation of waking up for the run.
Most people don’t understand and others just think it’s my addiction. But I’m learning that running isn’t the drug. Running is actually the recovery. It’s on the run where I find the most peace and see my life – the present and the future – through a more compassionate lens. It’s where I am reminded of how small I am in God’s universe, but also of how big I am in His eyes.
As I tighten the laces on my running shoes, I notice that the air is getting much cooler as we sneak up on the first days of autumn. And the sky is clear but not yet brightened by the sun, which hasn’t quite found its way to the horizon. This is my favorite time of day. Right here. Right now. I look around and try to really see. I am determined to open my eyes and allow my brain to take it all in – every waving blade of grass, every ray of sunlight dancing on the horizon, every song of every bird waking up and wishing me good day. I believe that if I can see, He and I will talk.
I am quickly disappointed. My mindfulness lasts about 10 seconds before the filmstrip of my mind begins clicking through to find a certain scene to play on this 8 mile run. I was to be present today – to see, and feel, and bask in the world in which I exist. But I feel powerless to change the direction of my heart. I am lost in my own thoughts again, and this time, I have no idea what has triggered the scene.
The filmstrip of my mind lands on a frame showing the image of a woman in a hospital bed. She’s the mom of an acquaintance. I’ve never even met her. But I learned from my son the day before that she is on life support after complications from a kidney transplant. Still running, I look to the right and notice that the sun is now a starburst on the horizon. I am suddenly overcome with emotion. I stop short, almost hyperventilating, and start weeping. I’m begging God to be with her – to help her family and to bestow upon them His power and His love. I have no idea why this has happened. At the moment, I have absolutely no control of my mind or my heart.
My mantra for the run was to be present, but I am quite the opposite of present as I stand here lost in my thoughts on the side of the trail. And while I feel like I am in another place, I have intense clarity about what I need to do. So, I pull my iPhone from my armband and search for her number. She hardly knows me except for a few interactions with my son and her son, and some mutual friends. I wonder if she will even have my number in her phone or how uncomfortable she will feel with an almost-stranger sending her a text like this at 6:45 a.m.
But none of this really matters. I am convicted to make sure she knows she is loved and protected. I tell her that I am running and I felt an overwhelming urge to send her and her family love and prayers. My hope and comfort during this uncertain and emotional time. I hit send and it occurs to me that I am almost scared to get a response. My hands are shaking as I tuck my phone back into the armband and start running again.
As I finish my run, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. I am more at peace now as a quote from Rumi floats across my mind’s eye:
“The soul has been given its own ears to hear things the mind does not understand.”
None of this was me. It wasn’t my clarity. It wasn’t my mindfulness. It wasn’t my intuition. This was all God. It was Him opening my heart and doing his work inside my soul. He was the One who opened my eyes. He was the One who gave my soul the ears necessary to hear.
And, it all started with a glorious sunrise and a little faith to truly understand that which I cannot possibly see.