What Life Asks of You

By Stephen Tony

In my last few posts, I mentioned I’ve been training for the Chicago marathon. I ran it last Sunday. This had been a dream of mine ever since I began running in grade school. After 6 months of training, and years of experience racing and running, I believed I was ready. Things didn’t go according to plan.  The weather was unseasonably hot and humid. After sticking to my race plan for 11 miles, I could tell something was wrong. Mentally and physically, I could feel myself shutting down. In the moment, I couldn’t find an explanation for why I felt so terrible. I had gotten up to 25 miles in training with no problems. All my training suggested I could handle the goal time I was trying to run. 

But how I felt did not reflect all that training and preparation. My mind began to shut down on me. My muscles began spasming, making it difficult to run at all. In retrospect I realize I was becoming dehydrated. But I only realized that after the race. In the moment, I had to face the fact that something was going terribly wrong and I had no answer or reason for it. This situation brought up a question: when life does not go according to plan how do you respond?

This can happen in many other ways besides running. Some part of your wedding doesn’t go smoothly. You don’t get the job you want. You find yourself in a new city and have a hard time making friends. A loved one passes away suddenly. Perhaps, like St. Teresa of Avila you find yourself bedridden with an illness for 3 years. In all honesty, the items I mentioned above are more serious than a marathon going poorly. But I hope sharing my thoughts during the race will help someone else. 

It was clear halfway into the race I wasn’t going to hit my goal. By mile 15 I had to alternate between walking and running. At 23 mile I actually collapsed. I somehow made it to the finish line. It was not at all what I wanted, but it was my reality. What got me through the race, was thinking of a quote by Victor Frankl, “The point is not what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.” This comes from a man who lost his entire family to the concentration camps and barely survived himself. Clearly, what Frankl and his fellow prisoners went through is not what they expected or wanted. But it was their reality. Frankl’s account of his experience resonated with me because he chose to accept his predicament, find purpose in it, and make the most of it. 

I did my best to imitate this in the race. I accepted I wasn’t going to have the race I wanted. I found purpose by offering up the suffering for prayer intentions, and I did what I could to encourage and support others in the race struggling like myself. And at the end of the day, it was still an incredible day. I didn’t do it perfectly; a week later I still have mixed feelings about how the race went. But I bring it again and again to Christ and ask to see the race as He saw it.  It may not have been what I wanted, but I chose to make it a great day. We always have the power to choose our reaction to life. And if we choose to make the most of our situation, we can turn even the worst days of our life into something beautiful and meaningful. 

If life asks you to go through a hard time, I hope you chose to find meaning in it and joy in it. I’ll leave with this last piece of encouragement from St. Teresa of Avila. “Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient.” 

October 17, 2021 - 10:29pm

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