#47days (Or, learning to love myself in new ways).

I’ve struggled with writing recently. There have been days of too many thoughts, days of seemingly no thoughts, and plenty of in between. Posts have been written and deleted, other thoughts too jumbled to even begin to put into words.

The last seven or eight months been an “interesting” season of life. Changes at work necessitated more-than-normal hands-on time and attention for a while, the holiday season at the end of 2016, and, definitely the biggest challenge, dealing with the illness and eventual passing of my wife’s father.  In the midst of being physically exhausted, maintaining the aspects of our life that we agreed were too important to push to the side, and attempting to be as available and best care for her as she cared for her parents, it’s not hard think about all the things that I may have neglected, including myself.

Since my father-in-law’s passing at the end of March, I believe I’ve entered into a new season. Yes, to some degree our family is still grieving, and we make no pretense that our grief should just, “go away.” Even so, a new season of grace and excitement is upon us, and me.  We’re looking toward new adventures.  I am committing to investing more into and taking more time for my family and myself.

For anyone connected to me on social media platforms, I imagine it’s been difficult to miss my indundation of posts about my most recent undertaking. For anyone who has somehow missed the memo, allow me to fill you in: on April 3 I registered to run the Sunset Beach Half-Marathon. On May 20.

47 days. Approximately a month and a half to go from having not exercised regularly in 9 years to completing a half-marathon. Couch (or recliner in my case) to 13.1.  My wife questioned my sanity.

She was probably right.

But I started anyway. I began running in the evenings after work, rebuilding my body’s endurance and strength, learning the ways my body responds now that it did not almost a decade ago. Some days felt great. Some sucked. I counted successes and failures and miles. I pushed myself as hard as I felt I could, and then pushed myself harder. And the day came.

I ran the first two miles without stopping to walk. The first six miles were in the bright morning sun and I knew that I needed to pace myself and not wear myself down early. I feel like I did a really good job of pacing and was right about on track where I wanted to be. Somewhere around mile 10.5, I started feeling a twinge in my right calf. Nearing mile 12, the pain of every running step felt like a nail being driven into the back of my leg.

Every runner wants to cross the finish line triumphant, running as hard as you can to the very end. And here I am, having to walk the last almost two miles of the course. I wanted to cry.

I ended up running about the last 150 yards of the race (yes, it hurt like hell): gotta have a good finish line pic, right?

More importantly, I finished.

I set my mind to something, pushed my body harder than it has ever been pushed before, and came out on the other side. I am master of my own body.

But far more valuable have been the “side effects” of all this:

I have more energy than I have had in a long time.

I am able to use that energy to engage my family and friends in ways that have been lacking.

I feel the best I have about myself in a long time.

It has been an adventure, a journey, and along the way I’ve learned to love myself a little more.

1 John 4:19 teaches that we love because God first loved us. Understanding God’s love for me, rooted in my creation and regardless of my own righteousness or sin, is crucial in understanding how to effectively love others.  John 13:34 “Love others as I have loved you,” also stresses this point.  In addition, it’s in Jesus’s summation of the Law, “Love others as much as you love yourself,” that reveals the flow of God’s love for the world as He intended believers to reveal it.

We love others because we love ourselves. We love ourselves because God loves us. We love others because God loves us.  We love others AS MUCH as God loves us. We love others AS MUCH as we love ourselves.

We MUST love ourselves as much as God loves us.

Without this, we will never be completely effective at loving others, and thus, never completely able to deliver the full Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as though I have been trapped in self-loathing and am suddenly free.  No, it’s been more of the revelation of loving myself more and more, little by little, and the realization that loving others more effectively necessitates a better understanding of my own worth.

I would encourage you or anyone, to pursue health. That means in any and all realms of the matter: physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual. Find something that builds you up and affirms who God created you to be, whether that be exercise, counseling, or prayer and study.  If you ever want to take care of others, take care of yourself.  Not borne out of vanity or selfishness, but out of a desire to be the person God sees you as, the person He designed you to be.

I plan to continue what I’ve started. I will keep running and going after a healthier me. For myself, for my family, for everyone. I plan to run the OBX Half-Marathon in November, and just today added a fun 5K in August. I won’t document these as thoroughly as I have this first race, but I’ll share any major moments or life and attitude changing revelations.

I challenge any reader to this: take 47 days and commit to learning to love yourself a little more, every day, and learning more about how God sees, loves, and values you. See how special you are, how strong you are, and how much you can make a difference to others.

You may be surprised what 47 days can do.

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