Friday, June 21, 2013

Glorious Summer

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer...

So begins Shakespeare's telling of Richard III, and so begins my own summer of 2013.

Lord, but this was an ugly spring.

Not outside. Been great running weather. The flowers were and are still beautiful. The lawns and trees are lush and verdant. Kentucky has been wearing her Derby best since long before the race. But my heart has taken a beating.

Lost my mentor and dear friend.

Lost my grip on emotional and mental stability during a bipolar episode that lasted for 6 weeks or more.

Set my new career back by months or maybe years.

Lost my personal trainer.

More funerals than I can keep track of.

And I'm writing this morning in a one bedroom apartment where I now live because I've separated from my wife, perhaps for good.

I'm not sure at all that I wouldn't prefer to repeat the spring I learned I had cancer over the one I just finished. It has been ugly. But by the grace of God and the love of God's people, I'm still standing.

There is a scene in The Raging Bull where Jake bellows across the ring at Sugar Ray Robinson after taking a beating from the great champion. "I never went down, Ray. Never went down." He took everything that the champ had, and lost the fight, but he stayed on his feet. Well, I don't mind admitting that I went down. Hard. Dropped my guard. Took one or two or ten to the chin. I saw stars. I heard the count. But by God, I never stayed down.

When you pray the stations of the cross, you walk along with Jesus as he travels from his betrayal to his death. And three times, he stops and falls. Three times, Jesus has to decide whether to give up, or keep going. And by God, he keeps getting back up. Taking more blows. Making his way to the death that will ultimately bring redemption.

There are times when I would like to be able to point my bruised and bloody finger into Life's face and say, "I never went down." But failing that, I guess Jesus isn't such a bad role model. It sounds crazy, but this dark season hit me harder and from more directions than cancer ever did. Still, the lessons cancer taught me keep paying dividends. That disease knocked me down, too, but it also taught me how to get back up. How to lean on the people who love me. How to fight for my life when my life doesn't seem worth the trouble. How I am never alone. How God will never stop sending me the love I need to survive, often from places and people I would never have expected to find it. How much a run in the cool of the morning can reconnect me to my Creator and the Creation of which I remain a valued, if deeply flawed part.

As I sit here typing, I'm looking out my window onto North Broadway in Lexington. Ambulances scream down from the outer counties toward the hospitals on the "good" side of town. Cars zip by carrying people on their way to work. A neighbor who looks for all the world like a transvestite hooker from the West Village in Manhattan struts in hot pants as drivers honk at her. And above, the sugar maple glows gold and green with the light of a new morning. So much has changed. So much of what made up my life a few months ago is gone. But some things remain.

It is still a funny, inspiring, beautiful world.

Life is still worth fighting for.

There is still a chance for my dreams to come true.

There are still people who trust and depend on me.

God is still faithful.

And always, always, always...

It's a Great Day for a Run.


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