This last week I’ve been running. Not simply for exercise. For sanity and domestic necessity. I run because if I don’t sprint and sweat as my heart pumps and my limbs piston? Then instead it will all flow out my mouth. Every mother-trucking bit of it. Nasty.
There are days when GJ&HS are padding along with me on my runs. I share, they guide, I puff and pray, they smile serenely not having to worry about heart-rates and how sitting sedentary behind a desk all day is a silent killer.
But the days when I’m running on madness? Jesus isn’t with me at that point. Well, I don’t feel like he is, even though the SAP would assure me he is with me. At that point, as I’m breath-labouring, eyes burning, life-filled and furious, he, God and HS are jolted around my brain and heart. Makes me think about the health warning about carers who violently shake their babies. I imagine the trinity getting tossed and turned around my soul and spirit. This is no happy, martini-making cocktail jiggle.
It is throw the glass at the wall, vermouth-smearing, slash and slice and then let’s break the damn bottle on the table and brandish it by its broken neck.
So that’s why I run. The days when writing is not enough to process. When prayer and Psalms don’t match the boiling within. The days when it is only hard exercise – sprinting as fast away from those I love, hurling the grenaded mushroom cloud of my thoughts as far away from them as I can – that saves.
You see, how can I be like Jesus when all I want to do is fight? How can I walk saved when all I feel is a fierce, embittered joy about hurling words that wound? Bring on the fight, I yell, brandishing the broken-necked bottle of clever, incisive vocab…let me just stab at you and slice the arteries so you bleed out.
God and Jesus whisper to be patient and kind. The HS tries his best, but he’s been less in me than I’ve been in the world. So I rail back. “You know what? You’re not down here. You’re on some cruisy eternal clouded throne and I’m in the freaking thick of it. So I don’t want to be patient and kind. Not now. Let me just shake you for being so freaking perfect and right.”
I understand this is hardly godly and righteous. I grasp in my heart that Jesus did a great deal more for me and my brokenness to be deserving of such dysfunction in return. I get it. Whatever I’m going through cannot compare. But, right now? To borrow a U2 lyric, Calvary seems a million miles from where I am and where I need to be.
These are my eye-rolling obedience to God days. The days when I imagine the Holy Spirit getting squashed within by my violent thought earthquakes. It’s hardly a Christian outpouring of love and gratitude, is it?
Then I realise I’m living my own Psalm. Reality TV viewing of the worst order. You know when they’re all being skanky in the Big Brother house and you shrink and cringe, unable to imagine someone behaving like that?
The camera pans out and back and I cover my eyes in horror… “Oh, no. That’s… that’s…just revolting. And… Dear God, that’s me.”
There are days when we all give ourselves a pat on the back, I suspect. When we’re weren’t too bad. Behaved well. Didn’t swear. Gave up our seat on the train for the pregnant lady. Dropped off a cooked meal for the sick friend. Prayed. Read the Bible. It’s easy to be lulled into the routine of Christianity. “God, I know I’m broken, but, oh, look, I’m doing ok. Really.”
Ha. Psalm Reality TV tells me otherwise. The days when I’m boiling and sprinting and really wanting to explode with venom? Those are the days when I know just how wretched I am compared to the soul God breathed over fearfully and made wonderfully.
I can always change my reality TV channel. Well, actually, I can’t. Not on my own. When I try to sprint and offset my venom through mean exercise, that’s what I’m trying to do. Yet it never works sufficiently.
My insufficiency to go it alone leaves me like the disciple Peter, sinking into the sea rather than walking upon it. Trouble is – and isn’t that God’s largest irony, His blessing us with free will? – I can spend time swallowing sea water, glaring at my Medusa reflection, whilst taking a perverse kind of angry joy in the storm.
I swam to the surface this morning from angry sleep ready for another sprint day. Prophetically, the alarm tone that awoke me was the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).
And before the storm could swell, a small calm voice whispered: No matter how angry, no matter how broken, no matter how hideous your reality TV Psalm behaviour is…no matter.
Psalm 40 flowed into my head.
Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
Those lines are not asked politely. It’s a demand that speaks to the consistency of God’s character. I’ve been in the pit before, You drew me up before and I can trust you will do it again. In a ‘right now, I can’t get there fast enough to help you, and I’ll break every speed limit to reach you,’ sort of way.
I surfaced, spluttering metaphorical seawater. And there Jesus was, next to the bed, reaching out his hand and catching me up.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”