I went to the gym today. Maybe it was a bit crazy of me to go back so soon, but I know that my body needs exercise. And truthfully, it wasn't much different than it has been any other time. I think I have grieved the loss of Rachel with every difficult spell - and I have felt pain at each separation away from her, so very many times - that I am accustomed to going to the gym feeling sad. I can't remember what it is like to want to go to the gym anymore - it has been a battle every time.
Today, the tough part was walking in the doors and remembering that the last time I was there, Rachel was alive. And the even harder part was the realization that I could put the cell phone back into the locker because this time I didn't need to be watchful for a call from home. There was no 'spell' that might cause me to rush out of a class, for home. Whenever I have been out of the house, I have needed to have immediate access to home for 14 months. I think my heart still beats a bit faster when I hear it ring. And so, for the first half of the class, my mind was occupied with the thought that there was no Rachel to go home to and with trying (sometimes uselessly) to focus on the directions. But somehow I made it through....and this felt like a small victory because there are plenty of times when I don't.
Towards the end of Rachel's life I started seeing this trek to the gym as a discipline that had significance in a spiritual sense too. And Scripture has alot of references like this too. On the whiteboard in our kitchen are these words, "Let us run the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith." (Hebrews 12) It goes on to say that because of the Joy awaiting him, Jesus endured the cross - and we should think of all the hostility he endured so that we too would not become weary and give up.
There was a class at the gym a long time ago, when we were enticed to stay until the end of the class because there were prizes at the end - our names might be drawn. And I remember how worn I felt that day - and sad. I had planned to go home midway - and yet I stayed - just for the chance that I might get a prize. I didn't get anything - I left with empty hands. But I couldn't help comparing it to a different kind of race - one in which the stakes were so much higher. And the prize so much better than a measly gym bag. I know that I worked harder that day - just picturing what it might be like to see THAT prize at the end of my 'race' and to picture HIM cheering me on.
So often it has felt like the finish line is too far away. Grief can be so consuming, so merciless at times. And yet I so badly want to win the prize that God has promised us....and I see glimpses of it sometimes. I want to hold on to them whenever I see them. Glimpses of God's grace in the stories of Narnia that Ethan is becoming enthralled with. Glimpses in Scripture - God's promises to us about what is coming. I wish I could see more but for now I just have to wait....