Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Steve Lindsley is curating reflections on a physical faith. How does one practice a physical faith – inside or outside of the church? In what ways can we experience God through our bodies and our communities? And how does movement, of many forms, bind us to a deeper sense of spirituality? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!
by Meghan Gage-Finn
I never saw the point of running for the sake of running. As a high school and college athlete, I was motivated to run in order to get the ball away from another player, or to keep her from getting the ball away from me. Running served the purpose of conditioning me for my sport, keeping me strong and fast and full of endurance on the field. But running in and of itself was not a sport. I held firmly to this belief until the last game of my senior year in college, when I had to turn in my uniform and I was left wondering how I could consider myself an athlete any longer. It felt like this part of myself I had identified with for the past 16 or 17 years, through awkward middle school years and late adolescence, through relationships and new landscapes, was being shed forever as I pulled my jersey over my head for the last time. The structure of a season and daily practices was gone, and the connection to others who were all putting themselves out there for the same goal, pulling in the same direction, was lost. As the time clock counted down and blared its caustic horn, I felt empty.
And so I ran. I ran through the quiet cemetery in my tiny college town, and farther out through the farmlands and pastures. I ran to clear my head, to trick my mind and my body into thinking I was still an athlete, even though there was no one to chase and no one chasing me. I ran farther and for longer, as I contemplated a strange sense of call by God, as I moved to new places knowing no one, in a hesitant attempt to serve God and love God’s people. I ran to connect with myself and disconnect from the noise and the needs of others. Without realizing it, not only did I see the point in running for the sake of running, but along the way I had become a runner. And somewhere in the midst of the miles, I realized that running was prayer and sacred and holy, and that it makes me a better person and pastor, parent and partner.
More often than I would like these days, my runs happen at odd times, in the darkness of one end of the day or the other, or while pushing a stroller filled with a child or two. But the feel of my feet on the pavement and my breath in my body, reminds me that God created me not just for sharing God’s love and justice with the world. I am affirmed in knowing that God created me to live and move and have my being, finding my best self in the midst of the chaos. For me, running is God’s invitation to listen to the world around me, to take care of myself so I can care for others, and it is God’s reminder not to chase or to be chased by the things of this world, but to place my footfalls in the rhythm of God’s steadfast love and grace for all.
Meghan Gage-Finn serves as Executive Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. As a triathlete and veteran marathon runner, including the fabled Boston Marathon, she has found this valuable training for both ministry and keeping up with three children, age 5 and under.