Welcome to this installment in the series JOURNEY: FINDING FAITH IN RUNNING, a series focused on taking a candid look at life through the lens of a runner. But not just any running journey – one that focuses on marrying the run with the sacrifice that Christ made for us all.
How can we find Christ in the midst of an easy run? Or a grueling run? Or a run after weeks or months after an injury or a break due to life circumstances? Ink Slinger Randi (the Runner) will take us through her own journey of running, going back almost two full decades.
We know that pain and suffering have divine purpose. Perhaps you have been a runner for many years – or maybe you have just started taking up running. What better way to take that suffering and repurpose it for Christ.
I have this particularly strong and clear image of Jesus. There’s the Cross – plain and simple made of wood with smooth edges, straight lines, and the grain of the wood is subtle. The Cross is just there. Suspended if you will. It’s not mounted or leaning against a wall, or even held up. And the Cross is huge. Gigantic. It stands hundreds of feet high; it’s so big that it has its own presence. Its vastness is felt. But instead of feeling fear, anxiety or uncertainty, I feel peace. I feel love, compassion, longing, and the need to be close to the Cross. And suspended in front of the Cross is the Resurrected Jesus. In a white robe, with no nails or blood stained hands, is the Son of God. And just as big as the Cross, Jesus is proportional – He is gigantic compared to me and my presence. His presence is known and felt not only in sight but in feeling. And I am drawn to Him. His hands are out stretched along the arms of the Cross, He ushers me to Him. And I feel loved, enveloped in compassion, grace, and a deep sincere feeling of wanting to be close to me fills me up.
Before the Cross, I feel small, like a child. But instead of feeling insignificant, I feel dignified, seen, valued, and unconditionally loved. I feel wanted and worthy; I feel welcome. So, I kneel before the Cross, my legs behind me and my backside resting on my feet. The image takes a third person perspective at this point, and I see little me before Big Jesus and I am awestruck. I long to hug Him. To thank Him. To adore Him. To stare at Him. To reach out and hold His hand. And in return Jesus smiles and generally always says something like “Here I am my child.”
This is the very image that came to me while running. And it was also on this run where I went to confession. Not literally of course, but in my mind I played out my confession to this giant cross with Jesus towering over me. And the image I saw next was that of fireworks.
As the miles ticked by, my sins were sent up to Jesus on the Cross like a hot burning ember, and when it ascended to the heights of the Cross, they exploded into beautiful colors and patterns of fireworks. And just like fireworks, once exploded my sins extinguished into vast nothingness. One by one, my sins burst into beauty and vanished into nonexistence. And as I continued along this run, this sort of “Examen of Conscience run”, every sin I mentally ticked off, Jesus smiled, exploded my sin into a brilliance of colors and extinguished it into nothingness. No smoke. No lingering firework trails. No smell. It simply vanished into thin air. And it was then that the true meaning of in persona Christi was not only revealed to me but understood. It was during this run, that the beauty of confession took hold. It was during this run that God revealed to me, through this mental picture, that He is happy to receive my sins. And not only happy to receive them, but happy to explode them into oblivion. Into non-existence. And since God is beyond all time, my exploded sins are truly non-existent. They are neither past, present, or future. My sins simply no longer exist because of God’s grace.
I don’t go to confession nearly as often as I’d like, but when I do, it’s always this image of the vast towering cross and Jesus that is before me as I kneel and rest back on my feet, confessing my sins and reconciling my relationship with Him. It is this image of fireworks exploding and receiving absolution draws me to this Sacrament.
As July 4th draws near, this image is becoming more and more present in my thoughts lately. No doubt this is God’s handiwork – drawing me to Him, drawing me to Confession and all the Sacraments, so that I may be as closely united to Him as possible. So, while you’re out running, and your mind settles, your breath eases, and you reach that comfortable place where your pace is easy to maintain, I challenge you to consider your sins. Run through an examination of conscience and see what God is telling you. And think when we celebrated our nation’s independence this past 4th of July, consider the magic behind the exploding beauty of those fireworks. There was no trace of fireworks left. No aftermath, no evidence. When you walk out of the confessional, recall this – your sins are truly forgiven when you are truly contrite. Let the vastness, the towering cross of Jesus take those sins from you and explode them. Receive His grace and love and watch as your sins are transformed into nonexistence. For me, I ran a few miles this July 4th and remembered that Jesus already fought the battle for my sins and desires nothing more than for me to kneel before Him, desire to hug Him, and reach out to Him.