Starry Grief and Grace

Without a doubt, the worst part of writing is the start- dealing with that ever present question, “Where to begin?”  So rather than stare at my computer for the next 30 minutes thinking of the perfect introduction, I’m opting instead to start with the stars.  

But first, an honest moment: I can already tell that writing this piece will bring many tears.  But that’s okay, and even good, in fact.  As Mr. Hemingway said, “Writing is easy.  You just sit at your typewriter and bleed.”  Well, here I am, ready to bleed from a very personal vein. 

And so, the stars.  In early 2018 I was fresh off the boot and physical therapy and had been slowly getting back into running.  I had no idea what the rest of the year would look like in terms of racing, but as time passed, my chronic heel issue seemed to be at bay.  Slowly but surely my fitness improved, and by the summer, I was in pretty decent shape.  So much, in fact, that I began to train for the Columbus Marathon which takes place in mid October.  

September and October had been an incredible block of training and I was doing many of my runs in the dark early morning hours.  I grew to love running the quiet streets of my hometown before the bustle of the day came under way.  But most of all, I loved stepping out of my house and looking up to the stars and moon above.  It was a joy to run under their light, and without fail, every time I was reminded of God’s promise to Abraham when He told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  Those were some of my most cherished runs.  

By God’s grace, not only was that season of training a time of physical and spiritual growth, but the race was as well.  On a very crisp October morning, I toed the line in Columbus and had one of the best races of my life.  It was such a gift to feel not only physically and mentally strong throughout, but to feel God’s presence with me.  I know it’s just running, and I know it may sound strange- but that race was such a gracious gift.  And I am so thankful for it.  

As I stepped into my driveway earlier this week, once again in the darkness of the morning, I looked up to those same stars and the same moon.  I smiled as I thought of Abraham, and as I started down the street it occurred to me that I was coming upon the 4 year anniversary of that race.  I simultaneously felt grief and gratitude.  

You see, 4 years ago I never could have imagined my life now: that my heel would not only not stay good, but that it would deteriorate to the point of limiting my runs to a few slow miles at a time.  Equally, and maybe even more astonishing, I could never have imagined being a writer.  

But first, the grief. 

As I moved slowly along, I felt the familiar pain at the back of my left heel.  The pain that quietly eked its way into my life 8 years ago has been a constant companion on the road.  Though for brief times it has been almost silenced, as of late, it has been oh so loud.  I thought, “I still can’t believe this has happened, that my running has been reduced to this.”  Though I am so thrilled to be able to do what I can even now, it’s almost impossible to not think about what once was…and to not think about what likely won’t be.  

I’ve struggled to even know how to pray about this, vacillating between asking God for complete healing and praying that He will give me contentment for what is.  Sometimes I’ve wondered if perhaps my faith has been weak; wondering if I haven’t fully trusted in His willingness to heal me (even though I in no way ascribe to the word of faith movement).  Countless times I’ve imagined what it would be like to see Jesus face to face, and like the accounts in the Gospels, to be healed by his touch or the power of his word.  

But he has given me more grace.      

The truth is, most of the time I’m okay with the status of this situation.  I still tear up every now and then, and writing this piece so far has been extremely emotional.  But I have so much gratitude for the gift of 28 years of running (20 years totally pain free).   I’ve also come to understand what a blessing it is to love something so deeply for such a long period of time; for not only did God give me the gift of the ability to run, He also gave me the gift of the love for it.  Now when the tears come, I view them as evidence of this love and of His great grace.   

But God’s grace has been more than even gratitude for the gift and love of the gift.  It would seem that this injury has been God’s providence for more blessings-  and in this light, the injury itself has been a measure of grace. 

And so, my gratitude increases.

Continuing to run under the starry sky, I was struck by a new thought: “2018…wow, that was before I even started writing.”   This thought led me to reflect on how much my life has changed in the last 4 years- and how thankful I am for this.  I began my writing journey in 2019 not knowing what it would become or what it would bring to my life.  And let me tell you, the blessings have been abundant.   

Over the last 3.5 years of writing, I have been driven deeper into God’s Word, which has by far been the most precious blessing of all.  Not only have I grown in my knowledge of God and His Word, but my love and affection for both have only increased all the more.  This in itself has not been without effect.  He has been transforming me by His truth, growing my love for prayer, the church, and His Word.  Even if nobody ever reads the words I have written, the many hours spent reading, studying, and typing on my computer have been nothing but a glorious spiritual gain.

I’ve also been blessed with the gift of new and beautiful friendships through the connections I have made through writing.  I never could have imagined this when I sat down to write my first piece in January of 2019!  The blessing of true fellowship with sisters in Christ is yet one more testament to the wisdom and goodness of God.         

In many ways, writing has been the most comparable to running as anything else I’ve experienced.  The spiritual formation, the experience of friendship, and the “feeling like me” feeling I get when I’m engaged in both are the marks of their similarities.  And still, God has given me not only ability, but the love of writing as well.  He has truly given me grace upon grace. 

I have no way to know, of course, if I would have begun my writing adventure without an injured heel.  However, I can clearly see how the presence of it allows time for me to write the words I feel God has given me to write; and how through this earthly trial He continues to mold me so that in all things He might be glorified.  Whatever the days ahead of me hold, whether on the road or not, it is my deep prayer and desire to minister to people through words.  Just as Paul prayed for the church at Colossae, so I pray that those who read my writing will bear fruit and increase in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).  

As I came upon my driveway at the end of the run, I looked once more to the sky.  The light of day was just breaking through and the stars which reminded me of God’s promise could no longer be seen.  And yet, I knew that they had not moved.  Even more, I knew the God who had called them into existence is himself immovable and unchangeable.  This truth, along with the testimony of this written piece, continues to heal the vein that once was bleeding. 

Published by Nicole Byrum

Hello! I have been a therapist in the community mental health field for the last 13 years. During this time I have worked with numerous women in recovery from substance abuse. It was this work, along with my relationship with Jesus, that inspired me to write my first book, Remade: Living Free. I have found writing to be a joy and it is my aim through this website to continue to share my faith, insights, and hope with my readers. Some fun facts about me: I have been married for 15 years and have 2 children; I love to read, run and cook; Even though I have lived in Ohio for most of my life I am not a fan of cold weather!

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