Flying with Seabiscuit

God has a way of gently dealing with me, that I'll never understand fully. He knows exactly what my heart needs in moments of sorrow and grief.

I had been told a while back that I needed to do some kind of exercising to deal with all the grief and underlying anger in my heart - and just get it "out there" so to speak. But I was truly afraid to, because I was afraid it would be like opening a Pandora’s box - and once that box was opened, I was afraid that I'd never get the "lid" back on again. So instead of dealing with the pain, I'd just shove it down further, only to have it explode every once in a while.

Since I refused to listen to sound advice, the Holy Spirit would keep prompt different ones to admonish me to get into some kind of physical routine - both for the needed discipline, and honestly to heal my heart.

Finally I joined a gym that I knew would not just allow me to saunter in and do my own thing (which would be not to push myself) - but a place that would really be checking on me, pushing me while encouraging me. It became a refuge for me. A place where I could emotionally let go and just "get it all out there."

And sure enough, no sooner than I started exercising, something started happening to me. Something I was totally afraid of.

I’d cry.

Not from physical pain.

No, I’d be crying from the mental and emotional stress of the past years of stuffing down my feelings. It became too much for me to hold it in anymore. I just couldn’t. I knew I would snap if I just couldn’t get this out.

Yet, I was mad. Mad at physical fitness. Mad because Mom did all sorts of things to be "healthy" and still ended up with cancer and dying. Mad because I'll never be the model on the TV or in the magazine no matter what I do. Mad because I breathe and Anna doesn't.

Nevertheless, instead of hiding my tears in the shower, or every once in a while, in front of Brent - now, whoever was in the gym at the time this crying fit comes on, got to witness it. Oh joy for that.

The first time it happened was in a yoga class (which was also recommended to me by a counselor, so I could learn to de-stress). At the end where everyone is resting quietly and the piano music is playing softly, I can see Anna's face. At first I wondered, "Why here? Why now?" and I could feel God tell my heart that this is one of the reasons I’ve refused to "be still" in any given part of my day in the past, because I can 'shut Anna out' of my thoughts. When I'm still, truly still and paying attention and being aware of myself and my surroundings, the grief is going to manifest itself, because it's finally being given a place to do so.

Great, I lamented. Looking forward to more of that.

Though there were days when I felt deeply discouraged and low, I’d find encouragement from the most unlikely sources. Like the morning I received encouragement from Red Pollard and Seabiscuit.

Yes – at the gym!

You see, this gym had a room called "Cardio Cinema". It was really cool. They had treadmills and elliptical machines in this very dark room, with a home entertainment theater where they show all sorts of movies. I've found that I could walk and run almost 2 miles in 30 minutes and never know it fully, because I’d get engrossed in whatever's playing.

As I walked in the darkened "cinema" and start working out, I saw that the movie “Seabiscuit” was playing. It was toward the very end of the movie, where Red is begging his boss to let him ride again. His boss doesn't want him to ride because he's afraid that Red is in danger of shattering his leg and making him handicapped. But after some very heart stirring moments between the main players (with my favorite line "I think it's better for a man to break his leg than his heart."), Red and Seabiscuit get one last ride in the Santa Anita - the race that had always eluded them before.

As Seabiscuit began to gallop around the track, I sped up the treadmill, till I was galloping along with Red and Seabiscuit too. And this is what I heard in my heart:

"They were destined to be together. Both of them broken, but healed. Both of them running and racing as one. This isn't about a race; this is about redemption for both of them. You too are broken, you have a ways to go to be healed, but you are running again. Keep going. Do not be afraid of future races, of future challenges. Don't give up. Those healed from brokenness can run. Yes, they can fly."

Seabiscuit is flying. So am I.

And I'm crying.

Again.

I have to slow down the treadmill because my throat is closing up and I can't catch my breath, and when I look up, Seabiscuit's crossed the finish line. And I look at the track where his hoof prints have pounded and tore up the ground. And I look in the triumph in Red's eyes and wipe away the tears from my own.

I keep on pacing. I have many more races to run. Perhaps there is hope for me yet. Maybe this gym membership was worth it after all.

"His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse
nor his delight in the legs of a man
The Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love."
Psalms 147: 10-11

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