This summer we are featuring a series of stories here on the blog about the intersection of faith and running. Through the years, running has been my lifeline, the place I connect with God, and my therapy. Over the last five years, I’ve written several essays about how running has helped me grieve the death of my husband and given me new courage. I’ve invited 10 friends to share their stories of how running has shaped them and become spiritual practice for them as well. I hope you will join us weekly for the “Running for His glory” series.
By Dorina Lazo Gilmore
The conditions may not have been ideal for a race. Gray, overcast skies. Muddy, slippery trail.
Of course, the elements rarely deter trail runners. They show up rain or shine for the pure adventure of the race.
My friend Heather and I donned running parkas and set out at the sound of the starting whistle. We were filled with gleeful anticipation of the race to come. I knew in my heart that God would show up with His presence and gift me some glimpse of His glory along the trail.
He always does.
The first time I ran the San Joaquin River Gorge Trail race was in 2015. That was my first trail race ever. Although I have been a runner all my life, I quickly discovered that running on trails through hills and valleys is very different from racing on the flat road. Trails require negotiating rocks, ducking under tree branches, and sometimes coming face-to-face with wildlife.
The trail taunts and charms me at the same time. It’s challenging, but I just can’t get enough of wildflowers chasing around each curve in spring or the rainbow sherbet colors of the sunrise dancing over the mountains.
That morning the trail felt less intimidating. This was my third time running this race, and in many ways, I felt like I was coming full circle.
We come full circle when we experience a series of developments or circumstances that lead us back to the original source, position, or situation. It kind of feels like déjà vu but with a twist.
In Exodus 3:12, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. He promises to bring the people out of Egypt and that they will return to worship Him on Mount Sinai. This is the beginning of Moses’ journey before he is sent out to rescue the Israelites from slavery and lead them to the Promised Land.
I imagine Moses felt like I did the first time I ran a trail race. I was unsure of my footing, tentative about what lie ahead, and insecure about my abilities to complete the race.
In Exodus 19, Moses and the people have finally escaped Egypt and journeyed back to Desert of Sinai at the base of the mountain. Moses has come full circle.
Sometimes we have to return to the mountain so God can remind us who He is and set our feet back on the rock.
On that morning, God shows up for the Israelites in thunder and lighting, fire and smoke. God displays for the Israelites just how big and powerful He is.
He reminds them that He is greater than all the idols and false gods they could make for themselves. He underscores who He is – the Lord, the God of Israel – who is faithful to keep His covenant promises to them. He provided passage for them through the raging Red Sea and food (manna and quail) for them in the desert.
In Exodus 24, Moses goes back up to Mount Sinai and experiences the glory of God in a cloud. This time he enters the cloud and stays for forty days and forty nights. He abides and dwells with God. During this time, God gives Moses life instructions on many things and sends him back to the people with the Ten Commandments written in stone.
Sometimes we have to return to the mountain to dwell with God and learn something new for our journey.
Every time I go for a trail run God shows me something new. One time He showed me His power in the rushing waterfall. Another time, He reminded me of His Presence through the fiery orange wings of a butterfly. On the San Joaquin River Trail, He renewed my courage on a familiar path. He reminded me that I can do hard things when I run with Him and let Him set the pace.
Sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships, or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come.
This year God has brought me full circle in surprising ways. There was a time after my husband’s death that I felt crippled by grief. I wasn’t sure if I could run without him. I’m not that woman anymore. God meets me again and again on the trail and shows me His faithfulness to lead and provide.
This past season, I had the opportunity to coach my daughters’ track and field team. As I watched my girls run and jump for God’s glory, I thought about my late husband Ericlee. He and I coached track and field together for nine years. Our kids grew up on the track.
In many ways, I feel like I’m coming full circle now coaching my daughters – and with my new husband Shawn. It’s wild to think about how far we’ve come!
Are you coming full circle?
Maybe you find yourself returning to a favorite childhood spot or connecting with an old friend. Maybe you are sitting by the grave of a loved one who has passed into glory or digging into some difficult memories from your past. If you are feeling like you are right back where you started, take heart. God may have brought you full circle to remind you who He is, to teach you something new, or to measure just how far you’ve come.
*The original version of this essay was featured at www.incourage.me.
*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.