Last month I wrote here about the disappointment I felt when a physician diagnosed my chronic knee pain as the early stages of osteoarthritis. She said that my marathon running days were over. Her diagnosis has felt like a dark shadow creeping into my life, robbing me of my identity as a runner. I recognize that I am over reacting. After all I can still walk and bike and paddle and swim. I can remain active if I choose. Yet running remains something I embrace, something I share with many of my buddies, even in the dark days of winter.
The season of Advent comes during the shadowy, short days of December. In Minnesota we often drive to and from work in the dark. It is challenging to find ways to get outdoors for exercise. Thus the darkness often can be internalized. A favorite Advent scripture verse captures the season’s gloom and yet offers hope.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
One recent Saturday two of my running buddies invited me for a winter bike ride. We each have one of those fat tire bikes that make possible riding in snow. It was still dark as we started off, our headlamps pointing the way. As we rode the Gateway Trail, the sun rose and the clouds turned pink and red. It was beautiful morning and I gave thanks for chance to ride with friends. I adapted Isaiah, thinking, “Those who ride in darkness have seen a great light.”
I continue to miss running. When I drive pass runners, I feel a pang of sorrow. I wish that I could tie up my running shoes and go for a quick run around the local trails. Yet I recognize that my emotional attachment to running will fade and that I am capable of finding other ways to be outdoors. My identity as a runner is not my core. My simple daily prayer has become, “Lord, let me rest in my identity as your beloved child.”
As Isaiah states, “a great light shines.” The promise of God’s love continues to illuminate our days. Jesus’ birth is celebrated in the depth of winter because Christ is the light of the world that shines in our darkness. On Sunday, with the whole church, I can sing
Silent Night, Holy Night, Son of God, love’s pure light!
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.