Why Not Me?

[Written yesterday, Thursday, October 6, 2011]

When I was in the second grade my teacher shared with us that if you work really hard in school you could be the valedictorian and get scholarships to college. As an impoverished child who was enduring multiple kinds of abuse, I already knew that my only chance at a decent life was one of two things: to be a famous singer or get lots of  those scholarships. I was told by everyone from mean girls at school to my own mother that my singing voice wasn't very great, so when I heard this new word, valedictorian, I had something tangible to which I could attach my dreams.

Second grade me.
I raised my hand and said, "I will be the valedictorian of this class." I believed it. I would do it. It might be ten years of hard work away, but I was doing it and no one could convince me otherwise. 

Praise God that I had grit, because upon my declaration everyone laughed at me. 

See, I was literally the smelly kid. I had a terrible haircut. All of my clothes were hand me downs. I was only allowed to take baths a few nights a week, so my hair never looked "fresh;" nor did I have any grasp of stylishness, anyway. I was desperate to be loved and often came across too strong, too needy. Kids already relentlessly bullied me for being overweight. Add in my silence on the gamut of abuse I was suffering and my destiny for age 20 was either drug addiction, a mother of multiple children by multiple men, or, at best, working in a fast food joint and living with a guy who used me to be able to sit around and play video games all day. 

But I meant what I said that day, so much so that as I sit 10 days from my 30th birthday I still remember it. I don't just remember saying it, I actually lived it--I graduated at the top of my class in high school and with a 3.9 GPA in college. I now know that it was God's grace to me, as he gave me a sharp mind that, if I'm really honest, meant that getting good grades didn't require much actual hard work. But the Lord's plan for my life was so much better than what I should  have been and, praise God, today I am living out my dream of having a great education, a husband who adores me and our beautiful baby, and, what I could not have seen 22 years ago, a relationship with Jesus that brings me more peace, purpose, and pure joy than that sweet and desperate young girl could have ever imagined.

I've had another dream, and like my smelly kid second grade self wanting to be valedictorian, it has seemed impossible. Out of reach. Too far away with too much work to even dare hope it could happen.

Jason pushing Rog in our "mac daddy SUV stroller,"
as he calls it, on our first family walk.
My dream is to be a runner. I've fantasized about it for 3 years per the written word but much longer in my heart. I want to be able to lace up my shoes, put my boy in his stroller (prescient of December 2008 me to refer to my baby as "he", no? Though it's now a Phil & Teds and not a B.O.B. because there's fluidity in dreams!), and just run. I want to feel excitement as my feet hit the pavement, not fear that I'm putting to much stress on my joints. I want to experience the elusive "runner's high," not merely the exhausted, "Finally!" when my requisite amount of time to stay jogging has ended.

I started training for a 5k this week, using a couch to 5k app on my iPhone (thank you, Steve Jobs; I pray you actually are resting in peace with Jesus, that he got you before your end). It feels crazy--me, running? This dream was impossible when I weighed nearly 400 pounds. I could barely walk to the bathroom without wincing in pain. Yet Tuesday I completed day one of the training. I was dismayed to see that I was supposed to run for 1 minute, then walk for 1.5 minutes, at each interval, of which there were 6 (plus a 5 minute warm-up and cool down--the walking was no biggie. The running? Oof). I really hoped to only run for 30 seconds and thought that a full minute would kill me. Yet I did it, and I did not die.

See, I have said I wanted to do a 5k for a long time now but I just didn't do it. I was scared. What if I do great today, but then what about tomorrow? What if tomorrow I don't do the training and I fail? And the effort it takes to actually go from never having run more than a mile in my life (twice, in the fourth and eighth grades) and not having run basically in 14 years to running nonstop for 3.1 miles requires a lot of successful tomorrows strung together in a continuous chain.

She could not run a 5k,
but she dreamed she could
someday and someday is getting
closer and closer.
I hope this makes sense, and ask me to clarify if it doesn't, but here's the problem: though I want to be a runner, I listen to the sneaky liar who tells me that it is impossible, that I cannot do it, that my friends C & J & A are runners because they are awesome but I cannot be like them. There will be a tomorrow where I will give up and it will be over, no matter how many successful yesterdays are behind me. Even if today was great, my destined-for-failure tomorrow is only a day away. It's not that I might fail--it's that I will fail. There is no option--I need to not even start, not try, because failure is inevitable. I will never be a runner.

But then I was thinking about those good friends C & J & A who are runners. I did something that terrified me--I committed to run a 5k in mid-March, and all three of them are super gracious and want to run it with me, no matter if I'm slow or not, because they love and support me. They knew me when I was 376 pounds and they loved me and they love me now, 100 pounds lighter than I was but 20 pounds heavier than my lightest, thanks to having a baby. And the thought that they'll run with me both blessed me because, hello, awesome, but also terrified me because that little voice whispered that I will fail them. I'll let them down. I'll have to make lame excuses and they'll think I'm a flake and feel sorry for me that I have decided to just let myself stay a solid 100 pounds overweight and think me a lost cause eventually.

These thoughts all happened today on a walk. My body is pretty wiped because between Monday and Wednesday I had  logged a solid 10 miles of walking and jogging, that after no exercise for two weeks due to sickness. I decided that today I would only do a light 1 mile walk and then come home and do some weight training, let my body rest a little. But then there was this battle raging in me as I was walking--why not do more? I can handle 2 miles. But I could even do 3 or 4. Why limit myself--why can't I keep exercising and do a full hour? I did a minimum 60 minutes every other day this week, so why not today?

Yes, right now I'm 274 pounds. Not many morbidly obese women run a 5k. And I won't be one--I'm confident that by March I'll have lost enough weight to simply be "obese," and a fit obese at that still going down the scale. But there are women who used to be my size and they work hard, lose weight, become a runner, and they're different people. That's so rare, but it happens.

Why not me? Why can't I be someone who worships Christ, works hard, and enjoys the grace of going from unable to walk around the block to being able to run? And why stop at a 5k? Why can't I do a 10k, a half marathon, even a full marathon someday? I want to make the Seattle marathon an annual tradition, even if it's the half that's more my bag. But I'd also like to run the Boston marathon someday, the full thing, just because I want to. It might seem laughable to the haters who think fat people deserve to die, but when I was pushing myself as fast as I could go up a tough hill that I went out of my way to climb four times, I thought to myself that there is an athlete inside of me and she can exercise as much as she wants, that this obese body is not who I am.

Me at my fittest, in June 2010 (unknowingly
4 weeks pregnant), at 255 pounds and able to
run 7 miles an hour for 2 minute sprints on
the treadmill, plus able to run at 5mph for 5
full minutes at a time. I will get back there
and get even better. 
Bad habits can have their end. Good habits can have their beginning. I don't have to worry about a possible failure tomorrow because I actually do get to choose Jesus today. I can keep putting on my exercise gear and going to the park, putting Roger in his stroller, and running a little bit more and more every day. Maybe injuries or snow or sickness will come. Actually, it's October--in the next 5.5 months some of those are certain to come. I might miss a day or a few days but I'll keep going and I'll keep pushing on and, by God's grace, I will not give into the lie that I am destined for failure because my God is a god of victory and he's not telling me that my future is defeat. He is also a God of hope so if times get hard then he can help me through it when I want to give up. Thank you, Jesus.

And sister, what lie are you believing about yourself that just isn't true? What hopelessness have you succumbed to? I'm not talking about "name it, claim it you'll be rich and perfect and never sick and everyone will love you" cheese. I'm saying where is there an area of your life that you know you're settling, accepting defeat? Maybe it's as simple as flossing every day (another new thing I started this week), maybe it's related to how you treat your husband or children or friends, maybe it's that you really want to plan healthy meals for your family and always end up grabbing unhealthy food on the go. Maybe it's deeper, maybe it's simpler. I don't know. But why not you? Why can't you stop the thing that you hate, start the thing that you dream of, or get better at the thing which you love to do but being passionate about it scares you?

We were not made for mediocrity. Jesus was great and he wants us to be zealous for him and great at what he calls us to for his glory, others' good, and our joy. I'm going to be a runner. I don't know how fast or good I'll be, but I'll be the best I can and keep on worshiping Jesus as I do it.

Official couch to 5k training starts next week (MWF mornings). I'll let you know how I'm doing, and don't be afraid to encourage me, particularly by checking in if I get silent about it. With me, silence usually means I'm too afraid to let everyone know I'm failing so I hope they'll forget. Not this time, Lord willing, but you can help so for that I thank you.

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