Running to the Cave
by Aubrey Sampson
Each summer my family spends one week at a lake house on the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma. By “outskirts,” I mean that the local grocery store is the Dollar General. Starbucks? Forget about it.
This remote locale also happens to be the only place in the world where I truly enjoy running. Although it always takes a couple of days to regain a good rhythm, I adore my little lakeside route. Here, pelicans serve as jogging partners, cicadas buzz playlists, paddlefish splash encouragement, and waterfront cottages serve as guideposts. I might as well be running in a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Sadly, I tend to emulate something a little less Sparksian, and a little more Miss Piggy-in-a-boxing-match. My limbs flail. My breath heaves. My muscles burn. It’s uninspiring to say the least. But, this summer was different. This summer, I was completely surprised to discover that I have actually improved as a runner. Even in the midst of ninety-degree Oklahoma humidity, I moved at a steady and enjoyable pace. My body is in better shape than years past.
My mind, however, is another story.
These days, looking towards the big 4-0, I tend to obsess over any number of the following questions: When will I actually accomplish my life’s goals? Would anyone notice if I got Botox? Are my teeth white enough? Will my marriage become more passionate? When will I stop reacting so harshly to my children? When will I finally be happy? Lord, where are you? What are you doing? Is this a mid-life crisis?
Frankly, I’m exhausted from running so many miles on What if’s, When’s, and How Comes. If I’m being honest, I flail through most days—marriage, mothering, and ministry— never stopping to breathe slowly, set a pleasurable pace, and stride in present-ness, gratefulness, or joy.
Written by David about the time he pretended to be insane in order to escape from the king of Gath, Psalm 34:5 reminds us that “Those who look to the Lord are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
After escaping from Gath, David ran to the Cave of Adullam where he met a group of people the bible describes as being, “in debt, distressed, and discontent.” 1st Samuel 22 reports that these misfits came around David and he became their leader. In other words, God used David’s misery to shape a ministry to over 400 people who desperately needed to hear the news that Yahweh transforms our shame into radiance.
I’d never stoop to compare my imposing midlife crisis to David’s life-threatening situation. However, in honor of David, when my mind begins to race, I’ve decided to abandon my regular routine and head straight for the cave. I’m retiring my running shoes, slipping on some comfy slippers, and pulling up a cushy chair next to the other desperate souls.
Last week one of my dearest friends was rushed to the hospital. Her lifelong run with Rheumatoid Arthritis has developed into MS. Her body has stopped moving. Her speech, once bouncy like a cheerleader’s, is now deep and deliberate as she repeats these words: “I am strong. My body is not. But my mind is…because I walk through this with Jesus.”
As summer turns to fall and the daily battles of womanhood arise; as school schedules ensue, and ministry years kick off, may we all find strength in the cave—thick in our turmoil, but encircled by the Lord’s sovereignty, faithfulness, and transformative grace.
May the Lord transform our misery into ministry, our shame into radiance, and our souls into a fish-splash, cicada buzz celebration.
May our racing minds find rest in Jesus.
Guest blogger Aubrey Sampson is a pastor's wife and stay-at-home mom to three sons (which is to say, she spends most days in her pajamas drinking a lot of coffee.) When Aubrey manages to get dressed, she blogs about overcoming shame at www.aubreysampson.com. You can connect with her on Twitter or Instagram at @aubsamp.