Thursday, June 7, 2012

Great Cloud of Witnesses

Over the course of the last few months, I've been engaging in the discipline of running.  I enjoy getting outside and covering a lot of ground with my legs.  I feel more in tune with my body when I consider my breathing rhythms, stride length, back posture, and overall energy exertion.

I've been an on-again / off-again runner over the last 20 years, with the last 5 years being completely off-again.  I'll spare you the excuses for this lapse into slovenly, gluttonous behavior and just say that it's been far too long since I've been running with any regularity.

Last August my friend Jake decided to take up running...the same week I developed an incredibly painful case of plantar fasciitis.

I worked hard to get my foot / heel healthy so I could run with Jake.  After a couple of months, I was ready to start running with my friend...the same week he became too sick to run.

Throughout the tropical Iowa winter of 2011-12, I ran a few times a week with the goal of completing a 10K while I was visiting New Orleans in early February.  I was pleased to complete this race...the same week Jake received a diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma.

I returned from New Orleans feeling proud of running a 10K, but also horrified that my young friend had cancer.  As he and his wife prepared for months of treatment, I was helpless to do anything but be present, buy an occasional cup of coffee, and offer prayers.  Eventually, I came up with an idea -- I should run a 20K in an attempt to raise money to help Jake offset the cost of chemotherapy, radiation, etc.

Thinking a handful of people might throw in a few bucks each, I hoped I could help the Bouma's by bringing in a few hundred dollars.  (Every little bit helps, right?)  I was astonished that, over the course of the campaign, nearly $1,500 was pledged from friends, family, and even a few strangers.  Inspired by their generous support, I continue to pound the pavement in preparation for the 12.4 mile run.

Then, two weeks before the race, I tweaked my knee while moving furniture for an elderly lady from church.  (Likely story, I know.)  An unofficial "diagnosis" from a doctor friend of mine pointed to a possible tear of the lateral collateral ligament or the meniscus.  Determined to make the race happen despite this possible setback, I rested my legs for two weeks and strapped on a knee brace the morning of June 2 for the Dam to Dam.

As I ran through the countryside north of Des Moines, I thought of Hebrews 12:1-2, a favorite Bible verse of many runners.  I considered the "great cloud of witnesses" that were supporting me in my running and supporting Jake in his cancer journey.  I recalled the far-too-many people in my life that are currently fighting against cancer...and the millions more around the world whose names and stories I don't know.

Throughout the race, a few people stopped to ask me about #BoumaLymphoma, which was written on the back on my shirt.  They offered kind words of affirmation and encouragement.  Even better, my sister, wife & children, and Jake & Libby got up early on a Saturday morning to meet me in several places along the route; cheering me on as my sore knee might have otherwise gotten the best of me.

I crossed the finish line far slower than I had hoped (2:05:00)...but with all my limbs fully intact and a heart full of gratitude.  I thought of how the months leading up to the race, coupled with the event itself, had brought about a significant spiritual awakening for me.  Maybe it was just the "runner's high".  Or maybe 2012 is a year of renewed meaning and purpose for me as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, and minister.

Regardless, I'm thrilled by the imperfect way that everything came together so perfectly.

The next race on the horizon is the Color Run -- and I will be proud to run that race with Jake, Libby, and my sister Kara!

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.