I got up this morning excited for the day. It’s Saturday. The sun is shining and I’m going dress shopping. Better yet, I’ve lost about thirty-five pounds since my last dress shopping experience, and to make it even more sweet, the occasion that necessitates this excursion is my daughter’s college graduation next week. First I needed to get my run in.
I got dressed and went out into the lovely morning. I started strong, but I have this muscle strain that has been nagging me for about a week. Also, the pollen seems as bad as ever. I was really hoping that the recent rain would clear the air. Worst of all, the “Hedges” are blooming. I don’t know what these shrubs are called, but the leaves are green and red, the flowers are small and white, and the smell turns my stomach. We had them where I grew up outside Philadelphia. They make a good hedge so they tend to grow on the borders of things. They’re all along the entry road to our subdivision. When I was young they grew along the perimeter of our church graveyard. Since this was outside Philadelphia, there were graves there dating back to before the American Revolution. When I was nine or so, the church built an education wing over that grave yard. This freaked me out. The summer that the building was in progress, we had the recreation part of Vacation Bible School in a field just beyond the construction. We had to walk past those tall hedges and all I could think about were the graves on the other side. I was convinced that the smell, which was really those hedges in bloom, was the smell of open graves. Since I thought it indelicate to mention it, I never did. It was years before I smelled the scent again, saw the same hedge, and realized my mistake. Too late. I still loathe that smell. To me, it’s the smell of death.
Mostly, I run the various cul-de-sacs of our townhouse community, but I one little section is our entrance road. It ends in a cute little white gazebo surrounded by roses and azaleas. I had just made the turn into this road when I was hit by a wave of smell from the hedges. This part of the run is a gentle incline, but it felt like more. My stomach turned and I felt horrible. I found myself thinking, “What do I think I’m doing? This is ridiculous. I’m old; I’m fat; I’m slow; I look ridiculous out here; I have asthma for pete’s sake–WHAT WAS I THINKING????” Andrew Peterson’s song about a penny, Loose Change, was setting my pace. “I can’t lift myself up off the ground, I’ve been face down, cast aside. You know I’d rather just turn tail and run than lie here in the sun and watch you pass me by, ’cause I aint worth a dime…” Perfect.
I tried to struggle mentally against the discouragement. I was losing. Then, as I looked ahead I noticed a group of runners out on the main road passing the gazebo. They looked so young, and fresh, and athletic. My mind screamed at me, “See, those are real runners, out there on the real road. You’re a fraud. Ridiculous. Just give up and walk!” But then I noticed their feet. Their feet and mine were pounding the pavement at the same pace. My gate matched theirs.” Suddenly, I was one of them, and other words filled my mind, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I made the turn and ran away from them with Andy singing, “And so I find that all this time beneath the surface I can shine, like all the gold a king and queen can measure. You see, even just a penny is a treasure!” Yep, perfect!