Do you know anyone who is limping right now?
I do. A handful of friends, first-time marathoners who charged or chugged up Pittsburgh’s hillsides just three days ago. We watched the runners between miles 20 and 21 and yelled encouragement.
“You’re awesome!” “You’re doing it!” “Almost there!”
As the river of people passed, the pain on their faces increased. By the time some of the stragglers reached us, they had been running for FIVE HOURS. Running. For five hours. I find driving for five hours exhausting. And they still had five miles to go.
We kept yelling.
Three days later, some of those who limped to the finish line are still limping. But I am not worried about them. They will take it slow, take a break, ice this and heat that, and some will even get a massage. They will take care of themselves, and they will heal. Healing happens one step at a time, just like training for a marathon. And they will do it.
“After all”, they will believe, “I deserve a break now. I just ran a marathon.”
My concern is elsewhere, with friends who have not run physical marathons, but who have recently endured relational, emotional, psychological, and spiritual seasons of strain. It was a long winter, a long year, for many people I know. They have run marathons too. Some are still running. And some are limping.
Will they allow themselves to heal?
I suppose it should come as no surprise that it is easier for us to recognize and respond to our physical injuries. They are (generally) clear-cut, able to be diagnosed, and often respond to cause-and-effect treatment. Also, they are rarely our fault, and therefore don’t carry the extra baggage of shame.
Relational, emotional, psychological and spiritual burdens seem far more complicated. Messier. And they build under the surface for a long time while we say things like, “Oh, life is just stressful.” But sometimes this is what I wish we would say:
“I deserve a break now. I just ran a marathon.”
I am sitting in a coffee shop as I type, and the May sunshine in streaming in. It is a good season for healing. And as I type, I wonder what that could look like for you and for me. Perhaps we could call a friend, or a therapist. Perhaps we could remember the silly artistic or athletic things that we like to do, and allow ourselves to play. Perhaps we could walk in the woods, or get tickets for a concert, or buy a box of colored pencils, or sign up for a class, or clean our bedroom, or write a story or…
Whatever it is for you, may I make a suggestion?
Plan to heal. When it happens, as it happens, it will be a gift, but it will not happen accidentally. It will not happen quickly. No one expects a twisted knee to be better in a week. Expect your own rehabilitation to take some work, and some time.
And remember: It’s worth it because you are worth it, and all the people who love you would agree.