SLOP, SLOP, pitter, patter, SLOP, SLOP, pitter, patter.
My running shoes rhythmically pound the asphalt of our neighborhood as the melodious rain joins to create a symphony of splashing.
It is forty-two degrees.
My husband came home from work early and built a roaring blaze in the fireplace. Our children dance in circles, celebrating its warmth while I am outside running. Part of me
longs to be inside with my hands wrapped around a cup of rich, swet, steaming cocoa, nestled beside Maguire reading Dr. Seuss's silly rhymes, and watching Mallory cautiously bite the charred edges of a roasted marshmallow, anticipating its gooey center.
Part of me didn't want to go out, but my body needed to stretch and flex, and my mind ached to recharge.
Running mirrors my faith walk.
Sometimes I am too wrapped up in my busy day to be motivated to read my Bible, or pray. And yet, my spirit craves these things. When I allow time to tune the instrument of my soul, I always feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
The heavy perfume in the damp air signals the yard of "The Flower Man" just around the bend. The land spanning from Mr. Stein's front door to the street is triumphantly adorned with vibrand purple irises, yellow tulips and orange merigolds. Drops of rain sparkle on the beautiful blooms forming iridescent pools on the silky petals.
A minivan splashes through a puddle, crashing through the water, like cymbals, spraying my already soaked body. I wave at the family and think, "What do they think of me, running in this miserable weather? Do they think I'm a lunatic? Or am I an inspiration?" I hope they see me exercising and vow to do something healthy for their own bodies.
Some days no one sees me at all. My footsteps drum up and down the vacant streets, tapping out my personal rhythm. I am alone with no one else to motivate me, but I am never lonely.
Isn't it the same with my faith? I attend church publicly and share my beliefs with friends. I hope my actions serve as a catalyst for good in others' lives. Yet, in the privacy of my home, no one sees me on my knees praying to God for forgiveness, peace and salvation. I am called to spread His word, but I also treasure my personal relationship with my Lord.
I cough the rancid taste of exhaust out of my lungs.
As the family in the van speeds away, I picture my family frolicking around the fireplace. Although I treasure my solitude, I miss them when I run alone, but it wouldn't be fair to drag my four children, or even my husband out in this downpour.
On seventy-five-degree, sunny spring days, I do sometimes bring them along. They ride bikes or scooters or jog along beside me. I point out squirrels, airplanes or clouds to the kids, and we all sing with the sparrows. Those runs remind me of our family when we sing hymns or pray together. We are one family, six people, bonded together in love and united with God, the Creator of the universe.
Rain trickles down the sides of my red baseball cap blurring my view. Unlike runs when my legs fly across the pavement, today I feel as if I am wading through Jell-O. With my faith I have "on" days where I am the Christian I profess to be, and I have "off" days where I struggle to serve God.
Something snaps insde me like a broken string on a harp. Floyd is a Doberman who lives at the street. Why am I so frightened by the cacophony of his barking? I know where Floiyd lives. I know he'll bark. He does every time. And yet I allow him to startle me. I could yell back and shake my finger like a fool; or believing I'm not vulnerable, I could enter his yard in hopes of bullying him. I choose to ignore the high-strung dog.
Like Satan, Floyd tempts me and frightens me. But both the Doberman and the devil are contained - one by a physical electric fence and the other by my electric fence of faith. Neither the devil nor the dog can hurt me when I turn away from them. It is only when I choose not to trust God, when I try to do things my way, that I am in danger.
I turn wide, staying on the left-hand side of the road. Isn't that peculiar? Going agains thte rest of the world and facing traffic keeps me safe? God asks me to do the same, so I won't fall in line with the traffic patterns of the world. He wants me to resist temptation and face worldly issues head-on. When I am going against the grain, I can see oncoming obstacles and protect myself from the peril they might bring.
Lightening steaks the sky. My heart thumps like a mallet picking notes on a xylophone. The rain has evolved into a thunderstorm as I face the crescendo, the steepest hill on my path.
But I know I can make it. Just beyond the hill is home. I don't have much farther to go.
I know I can do it.
I am a runner.
And I am a Christian.
Laura L. Smith