Thursday, January 05, 2012

Faith Works 1-7-12

Faith Works 1-7-12

Jeff Gill


Ghosts and good health in a new year



Not as a new year's resolution, but for the last four months, I've been running.


I turned 50, and quite frankly, it was starting to become noticeable that I could either continue eating the way I had the last many years, and buy lots of new pants, or keep my pants, and start eating less.


Eating less. Hmmm. Not necessarily a bad idea, but I wasn't really eating that much (in my opinion, and the dieticians in the audience can just pipe down), and making meaningful cuts in my caloric intake seemed unpleasant, or at least enough to make me consider the alternative.


The alternative was more, and more regular exercise, which I'd been fiddling with for a while, but not with enough seriousness. Having to eat less seemed serious enough.


But running. Once upon a time, I ran quite a bit; not marathons, but plenty of miles. The complication there was that this running was mostly in high-top black leather boots, and some of the United States Marine Corps' best trained, highly fit sergeants ran alongside of me at what seemed like for them a slow trot, screaming various imprecations at me for not running fast enough, even as I felt my lungs and legs burning on the last hill back to the squad bay.


Poor me, yeah, right. I volunteered for it. And after Uncle Sugar sent me a lovely honorable discharge from the USMCR, it felt like an official document permitting me to not run anymore.


So I had run, but not for thirty years. Or at least, not longer than, say, the distance from the center of the Great Circle earthworks to the Grand Gateway, or from the bridge from the picnic area to the center of the circle atop Eagle Mound. Often I get to lead 4th grade tours out at the earthworks, and sometimes just to wear out the poor little dears, I'd offer to race them, and can still beat all but the most energetic two or three (after all, I am twice their height).


Anytime I did that I remembered that I did enjoy running, and could cover a few hundred yards at a steady lope and still speak loudly to a hundred kids at the other end, and thought "I could try running again." But I never did.


I didn't, in part, because if I were to run more than a couple of football fields' worth, and started to gasp, I'd slow down, and if I slowed down, that sergeant would start yelling at me about my general & particular worthlessness. So why start?


In religious terms, with all due respect to Staff Sgt. Camire as a person back in 1980, what I needed was an exorcism. The demon of doubt, the spectre of failure, masquerading as Sgt. Camire, kept whispering in my ear "you can't do this, and if you do, you can't do it right." So I didn't even try.


What exorcised my demon, aside from my own personal desire to not have to eat less, was a vision. I was reading a blog from a friend of a friend, a guy whose faith and practice had long been meaningful to me, and he talked one day about running in these weird "barefoot" running shoes. He posted a picture of the shoes, and then of his feet wearing the shoes: and as I looked at them, I saw my feet wearing those shoes. That's all, no trumpets, but I saw my feet wearing those shoes. It felt real, and it felt right.


So I went to get a pair of them, and the whole way, I kept hearing a voice saying "I can't do this. I can't do this." I got home, changed clothes, and put them on, and heard what more and more seemed to be a voice NOT my own saying "I can't, I can't, YOU can't do this, YOU can't do this."


And then I ran.


Here's the thing. I didn't run that far. I still haven't run, all of a piece, more than a mile. People ask me about my plans for a 5K or a marathon, and I smile and say "No, I'm just running." What I did was I ran as far as I could without gasping, and then I walked. Once my heart and my breathing calmed down, I started running again. And so on. I "run" one, one and a half, two miles now that way. If I get up to three, great; three miles without walking, maybe, but I don't care.


Because the ghost, the demon is gone. It was prayer, and discernment, and intention, and the realization that a voice from the past is just that. Today, I need to run a bit, and walk a bit, and run some more, and that's good enough.


And thank you, Sgt. Camire, wherever you are; I know you didn't mean it.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he spent some time in the military in his youth, ooh-rah. Tell him about the ghosts you've laid to rest at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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