There’s something about the muscle soreness that i experience in the days immediately after running a half marathon that feels like a badge of honor.
With every muscle twinge; with every step down the staircase when i have to turn around and go down backwards to protect my aching quads; and with every time i reach for the stick to roll my muscles out, a smile spreads across my face and i feel my heart enlarge.
“i did it,” i say to myself.
The satisfaction i feel never grows old no matter how many times i run that distance.
Just a couple of days ago i ran my eighth half marathon. As with all the previous runs, this one was through the woods and covered some gnarly terrain. This year i ran a course that contained a total elevation gain of 1,556 feet, the most ever for me.
No wonder my quads hurt.
The parallels between running and life are fairly obvious, i think. Like running, life requires that you put one foot in front of the other to keep moving on the journey. Like running, sometimes the terrain you travel in life is challenging. Like running, life often requires that you pace yourself.
Similarly, the parallels between running and the journey to life and lasting freedom from compulsive sexual behavior are also strong.
There are times when you simply must press on. There are times when any forward movement is progress. There are times when you have to remind yourself that although you feel like giving up, down in your soul you have a hunger to finish the race.
And, of course, in both the journey of freedom and in running, your training matters.
Training doesn’t mean you won’t experience soreness. If you run long enough and push your body through obstacles, your muscles will be sore. The soreness is not necessarily an indication that you failed to train properly.
Likewise, if you press on in the journey for lasting freedom from your addictive patterns and your entrapment to pornography, your soul will be sore. The soreness is not an indication that you’re doing something wrong.
The soul soreness is from doing the emotional and spiritual work of healing your wounded heart. In other words, it’s a good kind of soreness.
You know that soreness is the good kind when it comes from working hard for something that is significant to you. It’s the kind of soreness that, rather than drawing your attention to pain, carries with it a sense of triumph.
In the healing journey, as in running, i often think of the words of the late Dallas Willard:
“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”
My effort matters and it is required. Running has taught me a lot about putting in the effort, and it translates to my journey to lasting freedom from my compulsive sexual behavior.
If i want to be free, it will require effort, plain and simple. A free heart and healed sexuality must be fought for. And they are undeniably worth fighting for.
But all of my effort, whether in running or in the journey to freedom, originates from a place of acceptance and validation.
My work is never an attempt to earn anything. Rather, my blood, sweat and tears flow freely from security in my new nature as a true son of God in the new covenant.
Paul understood effort and grace. It was he who said “…but i press on…” (Phil. 3:12, NIV). And it was he who said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 9:10).
Effort and grace are embodied in running, and they are embodied in the journey of freedom.
As we fight for free hearts and pursued healed sexuality we will experience a kind of soreness. Anyone who has the courage to face themselves and move towards their wounds rather than run from them will experience soreness of heart, soul, mind, and strength.
But in doing so we experience something so rewarding the soreness is worth it.