This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Allison is a guest on my blog today, sharing about how God meets her on the trail. I love that she is a grandma who still ventures out into God’s sanctuary in Creation!
By Allison Tucker
When I was a child, exploring came very naturally. There was no fear, no map, and no lack of motivation. This was before digital media when my boundaries at my grandparents farm in Mississippi were set by a barbed wire fence and the Town Creek spur off the Tombigbee River.
While my grandfather worked, I was free to roam without distraction. I ran, rode horses, and cooled off by jumping into the artesian well that watered the cows.
Occasionally, I jumped over the barbed wire fence to follow the steep trail up to the church summer camp sanctuary. My grandfather didn’t approve of my trespassing, or the dangerous wildlife route I took that scaled the edge of the bluff.
I ventured to the top where the empty pews were made of hickory logs. The cross stood about 10 feet tall not far from the edge of the bluff overlooking Monroe County and the Town Creek 50 feet below. Just the expanse of blue sky meeting the treeline beyond the cross in the shade of the canopy was life-giving.
I still remember it as a holy place where I met God to pray and just take in the beauty of His creation. I sat on the first row in my tank top and jeans with the sweaty salt outline of my horse’s back on my legs. Even though I was trespassing, I felt welcome. There was no pretense in this place.
Today, life is more complicated. God still desires to meet me on the trail as the obligations of life press in. There is no woodland sanctuary carved out of the bluff nearby, but my home is surrounded by trails rich with life lessons.
Trail adventures with God feed my soul so I am determined to meet Him.
My first step to unplugging and answering God’s invitation to play in the woods is overcoming fear. Fear is real! My mind can create so many obstacles. The internal messages begin with each new day. My mind tells me…
- Women are more vulnerable on a trail.
- The snakes are out of hibernation.
- What if I trip?
- I’m too old.
Fear can cripple me before I even make it out the door.
I have learned to just start moving toward the trail and look for God in His creation. I don’t let fear limit my experience. I expect God to show up and He will. Proverbs 3:5-6 often comes to my mind:
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
As the fear messages creep in, I tell myself… Put on your running clothes, prepare your fuel, charge the Garmin, and set your mind on getting out the door for a run.
My next step is to plot the course. Often, this happens as I am driving to the trailhead. I pray for direction and safety. I talk to God about any unfinished business so that I can clear my mind and just be present with Him on the trail. If I don’t accept God’s invitation to join me on the run, I’ll be running with my problems. Once I reach my destination, I hit the trail.
I love running next to water. Hopping over babbling brooks or tracing the curve of the riverbank with each step opens opportunity for wildlife sightings. The sycamores lean in toward the water like there’s something good to see or hear. I like to leave room for a detour or two, but I always have a map and know where to find clean drinking water.
Many trail runners run alone. I run solo to marinate in God’s presence, but only after I am very comfortable in my skill level and my surroundings. I join trail races or trail running clubs to explore places that I would not ordinarily feel comfortable going alone.
For me, the first three miles are usually a struggle. My body has to get warmed up and my mind focused. By mile four, my muscles are warm and I have stopped thinking about myself and I become relaxed as He seeps in through every breath.
When I’m ten miles in, He shows His forgiveness in the gentle breeze that renews me for the final two miles. I flow through nature with God as I give Him my full attention and let my thoughts become enveloped by His presence.
Even when running the same trail over and over again, each season proves unique. The air is pure and whispers in my ears. Spontaneous bird songs cheer me along the way.
Various ecosystems meet in the bend of the trail as I enter the solace of the hardwood forest. Thousands of leaves filter the sun sharing warm beams of light that reflect off each particle floating in the air. Hidden roots wake me, leading to the trail’s rite of passage. The trail takes a piece of me for itself as my knee or face hits the dirt.
Trail love. Proof that I have been there and tackled something beyond myself.
As the trail-head comes back into view, I have a new perspective. The stress I have carried has been wiped away by God. My body is spent, but stronger. My mind is clear and restored. My heart is open and full of all the beauty I have soaked in on the trail in God’s sanctuary.
Allison lives in NC with her husband Hugh and their 5 children. They are grandparents to a beautiful granddaughter. Allison graduated from North Carolina State University with a BA in Business Administration. She is a writer, photographer, and cut flower grower who enjoys encouraging women to create healthy life cycles for themselves, their homes, and their gardens. You can visit her website and find her on Facebook.
-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.