Can I just say that I love Tuesdays? I love how five little words – “nothing, in fact, is small…” – morphs itself into thousands of other stories. And I, for one, am honored that I get to host a few of these words! Sarah is a woman I’m glad to call friend, even though we still haven’t technically met (yet!). You’ll find yourself catching your breath in anticipation while reading the story – enjoy!
I had just arrived in Chicago with one of my best friends, and we were running a half-marathon the next morning. This was a big deal for us; it was her first half-marathon, and my first since having a baby. We’d been training for months for this race. We’d slowly built up our mileage, practiced different fueling strategies, debated carrying water versus water stops, and carefully pondered the placement of the porta-potties along the route. We’d booked airplane tickets and hotel rooms. Later that day, we would go to a crowded convention hall on Navy Pier to pick up our race numbers and timing chips. From my pocket, I unfolded and re-read the pre-race email that detailed our transportation options for getting to the starting line, several miles south of our hotel.
As out-of-towners with no rental car, we knew we would be riding the subway to the start of the race. The directions seemed easy enough — catch a Metra train and head south. We already knew the train tracks ran alongside the road across the street from our hotel, so we confirmed with the front desk clerk that the station we needed was just one and half blocks away: “it’s right on Michigan Avenue, you can’t miss it.” Perfect. We set several alarms to go off between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. so we would have plenty of time to get to the starting line for the 7:00 a.m. race.
The morning of the race, we quickly donned our running clothes, and headed out the front door of the hotel. It was so early that it was still dark outside. We crossed the street and walked in the direction of the station. We soon arrived. Well, sort of. We could see it very clearly — the platform, the tracks, the trains… but how were we supposed to get down there? From the sidewalk where we were standing, we were about 15 feet above the platform. I spotted a gate that appeared to be slightly overgrown with vines, but it was worth a try, right? Locked. I began to approach a man folding up some blankets on the other side of the wide sidewalk, oblivious to the fact that I was essentially walking into his bedroom — my friend wisely steered me away. I began to panic. There were only a few trains running that early in the morning, and I started to worry that we wouldn’t make it to the start of the race that we’d been working towards for so long. I ran back and forth across the sidewalk, feeling like a frenzied contestant in The Amazing Race. I looked over the railing again, and decided the only way left to get there was to scale the wall down to the platform. I started to climb onto the fence at the edge of the wall. “This is crazy,” my friend reasoned, “there has to be a way to get in there. It can’t be that hard! What are we missing?”
I took a deep breath, whispered to myself, “Help me out here, God,” and scanned the wide sidewalks with fresh eyes. There it was, plain as day. The entrance to the train station. On the other side of the street. With all the planning, preparation and coordination that led us to this day, we had nearly missed the race by crossing the street too soon.
I don’t often find myself on the deserted streets of a big city before 6am, searching in vain for something that should be easy to find. But more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself feeling that same adrenaline-fueled powerlessness, because despite my careful planning, life is not going according to plan. The scenarios vary — my kids are driving me crazy, a misunderstanding with my husband, feeling clueless at work — but the common element in all of them is feeling like I’m hopelessly mired in a bad situation.
My natural response is to ramp up my own efforts to solve the problem, but I am slowly learning that there is a simpler path to becoming the more patient, loving, and light-hearted person that I want to be — the person that I think God wants me to be. All I can do is the same small thing that I did on that dark morning in Chicago: Breathe. Ask for help from God. Listen to a trusted friend. And keep an open mind — my path through life may look a lot different than what I’m expecting.
(And you’ll be glad to know that we did make it to the starting line on time!)
Sarah is an unintentional pastor’s wife, mama, friend, sister, runner, newbie weightlifter, knitter, reader, United Methodist, terrible but enthusiastic dancer, and healthy/hippie cook and baker who blogs about her daily adventures (and love of the movie Grease) at Beauty School Dropout. What can you say to encourage Sarah today? Thank you for sharing, friend!