My mom used to run marathons. My whole life, she’s been a runner… triathlons, marathons, trail runs. She always pushed herself to see how far she could go. She finds peace there, I think. And it’s pretty impressive to see. When I was a kid, she ran the New York City Marathon, which was televised at the time, and she did the local talk shows and made the paper. We met her at the airport with balloons, so proud of her achieving a dream she’d had almost since the first moment she tied on running shoes.
She used to talk about “hitting the wall.” It’s that place in a distance run when your mind and your body get together to jerk on the reins and says, “Nope. No more. I’ve given you all I’ve got. We quit.” There are two choices when you hit the wall: you can stop… or you can, by sheer force of will, push on to the end.
Ever hit the wall? I mean mentally, spiritually, emotionally. When everything in you screams, “DONE!” and you toss the puzzle pieces because you literally cannot take another step.
I hit the wall on Friday. It was 9/11. That day will never be easy. My emotions always tie it to two of my students, twins who sat in my freshman civics class that day, who joined the Army and fought bravely… until PTSD stole one of them ten years later, almost exactly to the day. I had a draft of a book that had me stuck. I’d been feeling unwell for weeks. So many people and issues needed prayer. And I hadn’t had a day off in… 97 years. I sat at my desk for two hours and my word count stayed at zero.
So I quit. I swept the puzzle pieces to the floor and, as I tell my husband sometimes, “I quit life.” I went to the Bible bookstore and the office supply store, my two happy places when the beach is too far away. I bought a new Bible and new pens. I ate my body weight in chips and salsa. I drank Mountain Dew, which for me is pretty much the equivalent of an alcoholic chasing down a beer.
And I woke up Saturday morning still feeling like a rubber band about to snap.
Know what I didn’t do? Pray. Oh, I prayed about other people. About other things. And I failed to praise. I forgot the basics. When life is coming at you, turn your face upward.
Funny how God orchestrates things. Two weeks ago in church, He gave me exactly the song I needed. And yesterday?
Sooner or later, we all land there. When OVERWHELMED is too light of a word. Sometimes it’s because, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life comes at you fast.” Sometimes it’s because we’re the ones moving too fast. And we wind up worn out. Tired. Unsure where to turn or how to pray.
Head first in the wall.
Maybe that’s when we fall… into the arms of Jesus. I let that song wash over me and I gave it all back to Him. The tired, the overwhelmed, the head-spinning feeling that there were too many directions to go. And then I hung my hammock in the backyard, read a favorite book, and stared up through the leaves at the sky. And I realized I don’t do that enough. I don’t let my mind be blank. I don’t take the time to be still and listen.
Next time you hit the wall, try it. Lay there on your back, look at the sky, praise the Jesus who kept you from getting a subdural hematoma from the impact… and be still. Sometimes, that’s all you need to have the strength to get up and keep on running.