Battle Buddy Series – A Prayer for the Courageous
by Darian McIntosh
Broken. This is the theme I have encountered many times this past week. When I am contemplating what my next entry in my blog series will be, I often take cues from what is going on in my own life. This week, I visited a church and heard multiple stories from its members sharing their personal brokenness. Many stories came from people that you never would have guessed are experiencing it. I have read news stories about people around the world being broken from tragedies occurring or due to pandemic-related economic downturns. I have talked to people experiencing broken hearts, broken relationships and even broken phones. I have personally felt broken both physically and emotionally at different points of this week.
When this recurrent theme kept rearing up its very ugly head, I resisted the thought that this is a topic I should write about. Being broken just sounds so negative and in no way encouraging for anyone to think about. Above all, we do everything in our power to avoid this most unpleasant of sensations. We pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t like to talk about it so why would we want to read about it. I have come to the conclusion that that may be the precise reason why we should. Everyone knows it personally. We have all been there, some more than others.
This series has been less a how-to guidebook for marathon running and a bit more heuristic in nature (I chose this word because I liked the definition of it; enabling someone to discover or learn something for themselves). For me, that means making my series more relatable. The best way I know how to do this is to talk of my own experiences because I am not telling you something you don’t already know. I am just trying to talk about something you may need reminding of.
Speaking of reminding (ok, so this may technically be something you don’t already know), did you know that in the US, only 1% of the population actually completes a full marathon? This random fact was given to me this week also. If this is indeed a true fact, I’m guessing that statistically speaking, the percentage of people that even attempt a marathon and/or train for one is not all that much higher. Do you know what that means? It means those of us that have made the commitment are among an elite group. Running a race is not for the faint-hearted. It is very physically taxing. You might say It breaks you.
I heard someone this week make an analogy that being broken in the right way (yes, there is a right way) is not simply a renovation but a rebuilding. Now, he was referring to a broken spirit but this analogy works here because you simply change it and refer to it in the physical body. Training to run a marathon, having never done it before, requires you to not just renovate your body for improvements but rebuild the way it does things from scratch. When you search for pictures of marathon runners, odds are you will be inundated with images of very fit people that seem bred for this sport. The reality is not everyone is already in shape when training starts for them. Many people have done this as a means to an end. Some people started running as a way to become physically fit, possibly after being impacted negatively by not being able to exercise prior for various reasons. As a way to show commitment to their new craft, a marathon seems the ultimate way to prove their commitment to others but more importantly, prove to themselves that they can do it. What a rush it is to accomplish something that you previously thought was reserved for only the most insanely gifted or maybe just the purely insane! I can proudly say that I have personally experienced a few of these treasured moments and they are life-altering. But as they say, you remember the negative things more than the positive things in life. This pattern of brokenness can often be prohibitive to us experiencing more of these significant experiences and that has been the case for me.
One of my new favorite hobbies that I have mentioned here before is kayaking. My husband and I recently purchased two of them and we are fortunate enough to live in an area where we have access to a very lovely river within a few miles from our home. It is nice for me because, though the water’s current is not particularly tumultuous, I still get a good upper body workout while achieving a sense of tranquility from seeing all that nature has to offer (that’s the best way to exercise!). I mean, seriously…how often do you get to watch a herd of cows munching on the grass, riverside while eyeballing the odd humans staring up at them from the water? Or watch an eagle soar right overhead with a flopping fish ensnared in their impressively intimidating talons? Or even get to watch another eagle perched high up on a tree take aim at you by gagging itself until it vomits because you are annoying it with your picture-taking from below (it missed by the way, but not by much)? Yes, these are all things that happened to me on our last outing and I loved every second of it.
On this trip, I was struck by the trees we passed by. They were massive in size and have obviously been on this earth for a very long time. However it was that they ended up taking root by a river, it was this very fact that has had a negative impact on them over the years. Soil erosion has caused the roots of many of these trees to become severely exposed. Looking at the roots, I couldn’t help but compare them to the complexities of the human spirit. So much of who we are is rooted in our diversity and personal experiences but we all have the same strength available to us within these roots. Despite the soil breaking away and continually leaving lasting imperfections and scars, the trees are still standing strong. We all have that ability within us. The flow of the waters coming upon them has not taken them down because the waters eventually receded. Sounds a little bit like life, doesn’t it? Like the trees, we were not meant to last forever but growing strong roots can help us make the most of our time; through the good AND the bad. We will get broken down along the way but that does not mean we have to stay that way. We just need to serve each other those little reminders because being in a broken-like state, silly as it sounds, can sometimes seem easier.
The Physical VS the Mental/Emotional
When talk turns to the act of being broken, I am willing to bet that most people immediately think of being mentally or emotionally broken more than physically broken. And we all know that race-running is very much a mentally draining challenge. After all, your brain has to learn to ignore all those cues that tell you that you are too tired and you don’t want to run anymore until eventually, it learns to even like it (thanks to you, adrenaline and endorphin rush…wink, wink.) But we can’t ignore what it means to be physically broken. As I mentioned earlier, I personally experienced this very phenomenon, as this was the week that I have chosen to seriously begin my journey of solidarity. I have felt that in order to continue to relate to those in the running world, I must put my body to the test as you are doing. I must know this physical brokenness personally.
My trainer friend that I met and mentioned in a previous blog has helped me to achieve this personal relationship with brokenness. Not in a spiteful manner but she is very good at her job. She knows how to artfully execute the act of tearing down what needs to be broken in order to rebuild. Now it is my job to continue to show up. Another little talked about fact of human nature: we are most happy when we do things for others than when things are done for us. If I am being honest with myself, if not for my readers and my new friend, my mind telling me it is too hard would more than likely win the battle. But I do it with my battle buddies by my side.
You may have noticed my previous titles in this series have mostly all started with “A Prayer for…” and the word that followed was usually a word that signified lackadaisical qualities. Again, in an effort to be more relatable, I tended to use descriptive words that I have often been guilty of possessing to show that there is hope for those that may have similar struggles to my own. But this time, it seems appropriate to use an even better descriptive word that has much fewer negative connotations to it. I have talked a lot about needing reminders of our greatness so let me end with reminding you of this. You are courageous. You are one of the elite. And don’t you forget it.