Once upon a time I tried to become a runner. The problem was, I could only run one mile (down a slight incline) before my body managed to convince me of certain death should I take one more step.
At the one-mile point, my chest ached. My heart banged against my ribs. I gasped for air and my thighs screamed for mercy. Not wanting to die, I would stop running and slowly walk back home – convinced I had just survived a massive combination heart, asthma and thigh attack.
This process repeated itself for months and I made zero progress. I was exasperated with my fundamental lack of athletic ability. But I made peace with it because I figured we all must have some internal odometer that alerted our bodies to impending doom after a given distance. And mine was set at one mile. Downhill.
I shared my theory with a friend who runs marathons. With a shoulder shrug I disqualified myself from ever becoming a runner. She stared at me like I was a nincompoop and gently asked if I had ever considered taking a walk break … then continuing on with my run.
I was perplexed by this suggestion. It was my understanding that running meant running. And once your body declared, “Time to walk,” by convincing you that you were about to die, you walked. End of run.
She informed me that distance runners take walk breaks all the time. Some build walk breaks into training and even actual races to improve endurance and get better times. This was all news to me, but a quick Google search confirmed her assertion. So I decided to give this strategy a whirl.
On my next run, I made a plan that at the one mile point, I would walk for one minute then start running again.
Right on schedule, my body started screaming to stop after exactly one mile. I glanced at my watch and started walking. And even though I was convinced my watch was defective because my minute was surely only one second long, I willed my legs to start running again after the break. And I made it an additional mile before stopping again.
The walk break concept was an exhilarating revelation for this non-athletic girl and it transformed my running. Using scheduled walk breaks, I slowly developed the ability to run longer distances. I completed a 5K, 8K, 10K, two half marathons and a duathlon. This never would have happened had I not learned to walk.
My very first race – Gobble Gait 2008
I haven’t run much lately, at least not physically. But I am the type of person who runs hard in life. And while my body makes it clear when I need a physical walk break, I am quite good at sprinting harder and harder throughout my days while disregarding any warnings that I am about to collapse.
The alarm bells have been sounding for quite some time, signaling that I am burning out. I have homeschooled for eleven years. I have poured into my four kids and ministry and education and work and church and relationships. I have kept a grueling pace and I am exhausted.
My mind is exhausted. My heart is exhausted. My spirit is exhausted.
And God, in His mercy and wisdom, has placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered, “It is time for a walk break.”
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
He pointed me to a small Christian school last spring and said, “This is one area of your life where you will walk.” Then he blew open the doors to make it work for us financially and logistically to send our two youngest kids there this fall.
I doubt anyone is more picky about schools than me. And if you ever asked this passionate homeschool mama to describe what type of school I would consider for my children, my list would look like this: small, a deep sense of community, kind teachers who love the Lord, a celebration of the wonder and joy of childhood and a focus not just on quality academics but on shepherding kids hearts and pointing them to Jesus. As an added bonus it would have to have a nice long recess for my free-spirited babies to play.
And as if I ordered off a menu, God selected a school that met all of my criteria.
I’ll be honest, I did not welcome this change. But I am blown away by how gentle God was with my heart as we navigated the decision. And though it feels foreign on every level to be sending my kids to school, I am walking.
And I am so so so excited.
The peace and certainty I feel about the rightness of this path can only be explained by God’s spirit within me. Every fear is gone and every question has been answered.
It is amazing how good it feels when you know you are walking in obedience.
My older two will continue to be homeschooled. And at this point our plan is to treat this year as a desperately needed sabbatical for me and trust God’s leading as to how long we keep the younger two in school. Though I must admit, the joke around here is that we don’t know which Haveman will get kicked out first. (Dave’s money is on me.)
And God is not finished. He is pointing at other areas of my life and directing me to walk or even stop. I can’t wait to settle before God and obey.
It is my heart’s desire to run far in life and to run well. I don’t want to be disqualified. And it took near collapse to realize that running well requires periods of rest. So I am entering into a season of walking.
The only place I plan to run during this season is right into the embrace of Jesus. I trust He will direct me when and where to start running again according to His perfect plan.
I wonder who else might be needing a walk break. Please don’t miss it. Don’t keep pushing and striving to the point where you are breathless and in intractable pain. God is a big believer in rest. Particularly, resting in Him. Because just as God’s Word often refers to believers running races, it also speaks to our great need for periods of rest.
So if you need to walk, slow down and walk.
And when He thinks you are ready, God will lean in and whisper, “Go!” And you will run farther and faster than you ever dreamed possible.