I know. I know. I blog a lot about running. I don't see this trend ending anytime soon--at least not till after May 19, the quickly-approaching day of my first (and perhaps only--but I am starting to highly doubt that) half-marathon. Now if only I can make it through the rest of this post without any more parenthetical comments....
When people post about running on Facebook or other places, there's always some Smart Alec who asks the question, "What exactly are you running from?" It's a bad joke, of course, meaning that no one in their right mind would be running unless something ghastly was chasing them. And honestly, I used to rely on an imagined monster when I first started running. I guess I was still in my right mind at that point, because I didn't like running, at first. I started imagining monsters that were chasing me, giving me an incentive to keep going. Only, I hated running so much that I couldn't think of a scary enough monster. If given the choice between getting eaten by something and continuing to run, I would have chosen getting eaten by something. Every monster I thought of wasn't scary enough.
So eventually I was clever enough to invent a monster that gave me adequate motivation. I imagined a Giant Treadmill Monster was chasing me, promising that if it caught me, it would make me run on it forever and ever. That got me through the first few months of running--until I figured out that the longer I went on each run, the easier it got. The first two miles are usually two of the hardest, but once I get through them, my body figures out that I'm not going to die, and it's a lot easier to find a rhythm and keep going.
And I'm sure at this point all three of my regular readers are wondering what all of this has to do with fiction. I'm getting there. Like with the first couple miles of running, sometimes I have to get through a few paragraphs before I figure out what's going on.
There are still times when I am running away from things when I'm running. Last week, when I ran my first ten miles, it wasn't that hard. My legs went numb for a while, and of course I was tired, but it really was one of my better runs. I think it was because I had just gone through a really long and stressful week at work, and I just needed to run away from the noise and chaos that comes with working with large numbers of children. In that instance, I was running away from something. There was nothing wrong with that.
But most of the time, I'm not running away from anything. In fact, I'm running towards something. I'm running towards the goals I've set for myself. I'm running towards getting that 13.1 sticker/magnet for the back of my car. I'm running towards just the feel of the wind on my face and the rhythm of my shoes on the pavement. Sometimes I just set one foot in front of the other, knowing that with every step I take, I'm one step closer to the One who has created me for His pleasure and glory.
The other day I had to take the middle girl I watch, "The Diva," to her indoor soccer practice. I always bring a book with me, because even though I'm immensely proud of the girls' soccer accomplishments, I really just don't get soccer. If it doesn't involve bases and a bat, I don't get it. In fact, I don't really get baseball either, but I get it better than most sports. So for soccer practices, I bring a book to entertain my brain for an hour, occasionally looking up just in time to see "The Diva" score a goal.
Well, I didn't plan very well the other day, and I finished the book about halfway through soccer practice. So I tried to watch soccer for half an hour, but my mind started wandering. I was watching "The Diva," thinking about how much fun she and her sisters are. I was thinking about all the people in my life, all the things I love about my life. And my mind drifted back to the book I had been reading, and I realized that while the book was good, it didn't hold a candle to my life. Now, right now, I don't know if I'd say that I'm the happiest I've ever been, but I think I'm the most joyful that I've ever been. I feel more beautiful than I've ever felt. I feel more like me. And I realized that none of the stories that I write, as much as I love them, aren't nearly as important to me as the life God has given me.
And I realized that there might be a reason why I'm not writing as much as I used to write. I don't have as much time, obviously, but there is more to it than that. When I was younger, I used to write to escape life. I suppose that's one of the reasons fiction exists. Yes, there's the entertainment factor, but sometimes fiction is a form of escapism. We want to forget our own world and our own troubles for awhile and get inside the world of fictional characters. We want to read the book, watch the play or movie or television show, just to experience something other than reality.
That's one of the reasons I used to write. Reality was either too painful or too boring, so I invented my own worlds and characters. I was using writing to run away from the real world. I'm not sure when I stopped doing that. I'm not sure when I stopped "writing away from" reality, when I started investing more in the life I'm actually living instead of the fantasies I sometimes wish I could be living. But the fact that I no longer have that particular motivation might be one of the reasons why I don't write as often as I did in the past.
The desire to write still exists, of course. I am a writer. I wouldn't be me if I didn't write. But I don't make as much time for it as I used to. And maybe I need to reevaluate the things I'm writing towards. There are dreams and goals and visions I have for my writing. There is simply joy to be found in the act of writing, of putting pen to paper or allowing my fingers to freely type across the keyboard. There's also the ultimate reason of writing because the One who has made me for His pleasure has graciously given me the pleasure of writing. The Creator has breathed into me creativity, giving me the chance to experience just the smallest idea of how it feels to create something. And if I'm not writing for His glory, then all the other reasons seem...well, sort of silly.
I don't believe that the Lord has given me the ability and desires to write or run or sing or do anything I do without a reason. With this belief, with this knowledge, I gain the freedom to try just about anything--whether I succeed or fail--knowing that all things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.
I'm not "writing away from" anything anymore. I'm not escaping. I'm not trying to find some relief from the real world. Rather, God has given me such great joy in the real world, and I'm suddenly struck with the awareness that I can't keep the gifts He has given me to myself.
So I write. I write towards the hope that He will do more than I could ever ask or imagine through my writing, through me. I keep saying how much of a weak fool I am, and I keep saying that because it's true. The only hope for me is that the Lord has chosen the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise.
But that's a great hope, friends.