I stepped out into the world one day to go for a run. I was eager to try out my brand new running shoes. The sky was brilliant as the sun rose over the mountains. I breathed in the fresh crisp air as I laced on my shoes. I was ready for this run!
It was hard to contain my energy and strength as I bounded out onto the pavement. I smiled at the little flowers I saw blooming on the side of the hill. It was almost effortless to glide forward at a nimble pace.
Sometimes I accelerated without even noticing. Other times I stopped and dawdled at the side of the road. Frequently there were others around me. We ran together for a while and compared running shoes. We gleefully splashed through puddles, and trudged up some steep hills together. We held our arms up in the air as we recklessly sprinted down the hills and into the valleys.
Soon one was running beside me. He made my heart pound deeper. My steps grew in rhythm with his. We turned onto a new path together. It felt familiar. It was our own.
Our new path was narrower. It was a lovely winding path with playful white flowers freckled along the side. We splashed in the cool mountain stream that bordered our path. We climbed a tree to get a better view and chartered our course. Our shoes were slightly worn now, but we had taken good care of them, and knew that we could run many more miles on them. We loved our new path. We vowed to run on it together forever.
We decided to share our path with four new runners. We were so excited to show them everything. We laughed as they marveled at their new shoes. We taught them to lace up their shoes, stretch, and run, run, RUN!!!!! If they fell, we picked them up and brushed the dirt from their knees. “Your wound will heal” we said, “It is not so bad. Now get back up and run!“
It was hard to keep up with them sometimes! But other times they lay peacefully in our arms as we reverently watched them sleep. They were amazing.
We held hands and ran slower so that we could all stay together. A steady pace forward and side by side was our goal. The radiant sun was still high in the sky.
Suddenly a thorn shot through my shoe and tore deeply into my foot! I was stunned at first and stumbled. I could not get the bleeding to stop. I fell and cried. The wound was too deep to heal, I was told. I could see the wound, but I couldn’t feel the pain.
Someone cries beside me. He takes my hand again. We are wounded together. We are lost from our course. How could we lose our beautiful path? This was not what we planned.
We tell our little runners that it will be okay. It will heal. Then we continue to run on our new path as the sun begins to hide behind the mountain. We quicken our pace to beat the setting sun. We hold each other’s hands. Our little runners can feel our grips tighten.
When I am too weak to run, he carries me for a while. I try to smile and I run when I can. Our path gets steeper and darker. I try to move forward on my own, and our hands lose contact briefly. I can feel the pain now. Our little runners cling to us and stumble when we do. We reach out to find one another again and turn the corner. The path is unfamiliar ahead.
If we cannot get back onto our beautiful path, can we make this one ours? We decide to recharter our course. First we must stop and remove the thorn, we decide. It will hurt, but it must come out if there is any chance for it to heal. We let ourselves believe that it can heal. We cannot remove my shoe completely or I will have to go home right away. We know that we will both end our run at home, but we want to enjoy the path together as long as we can. We try to remove all of the thorn. We don’t want to leave any part behind.
I sob with pain as it being removed. Sometimes I stop and take a deep breath. “We have to continue“, I say. My will to be rid of the thorn is increasing. I want to believe that my shoe can be as good as new. Our little ones play alongside the path, unaware of the thorn. I want to watch them grow into strong runners. There is so much for me to teach them before we go on separate paths. They come over to us when they see the clouds darkening, and we tickle them and tell them to go play by the stream for a while. This will just take a moment longer.
We struggle to get rid of the thorn. Feeling weak, we cry out to God. “Please heal this wound!!” Others encircle us and lift me to my feet. “If you do your best to repair your shoe, I will take care of your foot” comes the answer.
We summon all our strength and pull as hard as we can on the thorn. It comes out but leaves a wound in my foot and a hole in the shoe. We ask others for help to repair the shoe. We want to do the very best job we can so that the shoe will last a long time. We have to use what is around us to repair it. The repair job seems solid, but the shoe will never be completely the same.
I look at all who have gathered around me on our path. They are telling me that it will be okay. They encourage me to keep running. I don’t like this path as much as the one I started on, but I am not alone like I was at the beginning of my run. I decide that my foot needs to be stronger if my shoe is weakened. I did not start this run only to go home early. I will run better than I have ever run before!
I take his hand again with renewed energy. I can feel my foot healing already. We take our four little runners and begin again. The path takes us around another corner, and the sun is still shining. We only thought the sun was setting because of our place on the path. My shoe is working well, but we know that all of our shoes will wear out eventually. Then we will go to our beautiful home and rejoice at the new shoes that await us there that will never wear out.
But in the meantime, we look around and notice that the path is much more interesting than we thought. The shadows only make the sunlit parts look brighter. There is still a long way to go on the path before we reach our home. We will never be the same as we were before the thorn. In many ways we are stronger. We are more aware that our run cannot last forever, but we are not afraid. We vow to run our best, to splash in the stream, to raise our hands in the air and run recklessly down the hills, to lift those we see who have fallen on the path, to tickle our little runners, to teach them all we know, and to hold hands all the way home.