My feet are an instrument, pounding out the same rhythm against the dark pavement at 6:30 a.m. every morning. Around Swallow, over to Mountaindale, and further down, until I’m back up Warren and finishing the end of the route. Further up and further in, so they say, just as the sun crests over the hills and the first signs of life appear in the neighborhood.
I’ve been running for thirteen months now. I could say just a year, but really, thirteen months is more precise. Because it’s what happened fourteen months ago that put my feet to pavement. It’s funny how you maybe never get over death. That there could still be moments where I think about doing something with my grandmother, or telling her something, where – for just a split second – I smile, and then, the breath is knocked out of me again.
It is not that I don’t hope in the resurrection, because I do. I know that she is with Jesus. But the mourning and the going on and the living life – and the thinking ahead to more deaths and more dying and more pain – is hard. The kind of hard that sometimes, only feet to pavement can remedy. Running until you can’t feel the sadness anymore.
And thirteen months ago, just when the world was tilting back on its axis again, everything shifted. Hours of interstate produced a fall weekend in a city and heartache of the hardest kind. And hearing his words and learning her name and seeing the ring produce the same kind of “knock the wind out of me” result as remembering my grandma’s death. Not as severe, not as profound, but still.
With the first, I think, it is death of idealism. Of a hope that life will be easy and free of pain. Smashing into the reality that life is simply hard. That there is death and sickness and grief and pain. Lost babies and woeful genetic test results and missionaries killed and children starving and women beaten and people getting old and bones breaking, and I wonder when it will all end.
And in the second, maybe, it is death to a hope and a dream, and maybe even a dream within a dream. It seems as if everyone is getting married. It seems as if they are all moving on, to their nice houses and new cars and spouses and kids and comfortable jobs. And I am left standing and have no idea what is next, or who is next, or if I will ever not be alone. It is death to a friendship that I thought just maybe could be more, with someone who I thought could know me. Who thought my jokes were funny and my insights were helpful, and who really cared about what I was thinking when I was silent. And it is death to all the other boys who were before.
And as I round the bend, onto the third mile, I remember what people say – that there are lots of people who meet their spouses later in life. That there are plenty of guys out there. And, there’s my favorite adage, the one about being really content in Christ – and that only then will you find a husband. I think all of these things are kind of true in their own respects. But I want to want Christ – solely for the purpose of wanting him. Not because contentment in him is a means to an end, but because it is the end. Because at the end of the day – I may find myself content in him and single on this earth for the rest of my days. And I want for that to be…enough.
And so maybe I grieve in the middle for death, for death of those I love, but also for the death of dreams I forgot that I had within me. The feeling of longing it is to be in a room of women your age, and to be the only one who is childless. The feeling of fear that comes over you when you think about what the days ahead will look like. The sense of loneliness and aching and wanting for family and for people to be your people.
These things too have to die. And they don’t die a quick death like my grandma, but a slow death, day after day. And maybe they will never die completely on this earth. It is the dying to self that is sanctifying. Christ in us.
And so my feet bound against the pavement the rhythm that he never leaves and he never forsakes, no matter how I might feel this morning. That he is always faithful to the promises he makes. And that even if I am single for the rest of my days, with no child, and no place or name or family of my own…he is still good. It is the song I sing as I rush past the leaves that are so beautiful, and so dying. That he could make something dying so beautiful.
It is the truth caught up in my heart even as I grieve and mourn for what was good and past and is gone. It is the melody of the resurrection and that he is making all things new – even this.