May he guide thy way, who is himself thy everlasting end,
That every step, be swift or slow,
To himself may tend
On the morning of my twenty-eighth birthday, I ran without pain for the first time.
Injury is not a simple process. Injuries are often the compounding of bruises from exterior causes and our own damaged coping mechanisms. Our imperfect habits of resilience contribute to and magnify our own wounds.
This particular injury was the result of my own stubbornness, and the bad habits that resulted from it. I refused to ask for help—and my flawed coping solutions I devised negatively affected my running form and resulted in worse injuries.
I am terrible at asking for help. And I only learned this once I was faced with an injury that defied my body’s resources. Faced with a wound that was beyond my body’s natural capacity to heal itself, I finally acknowledged my own need to seek help. To seek help to heal myself.
Painstakingly, I shift my weight from my heel to the mid-foot, I begin to shift my center of gravity forward. You cannot lean on the same, overworked muscles. You must begin to rearrange your muscles in a new form. Only then can you keep running.
I can heal myself only so far, however, and then my efforts fail. I need help to heal entirely. The physical therapist who pulled my femur down out of my gummed-up hip socket; Faris, who stretched some twisted tendon back into place; the MRI technician who gently captured the images; and the physical therapist who made space in my crowded hip. Each of these physical contributed to a healing I could not have achieved on my own.
Lying on my back, as each stranger and friend pushed and pulled my body back into wholeness, I felt like Paul. Or Jacob. Grace is obvious and abundant, but demands that you seek it. It’s so available, but will only give help when asked.
To learn new habits of the heart demands grace: grace in the form of mentors, wisdom, therapists, spiritual guides, wise words. Grace like a doctor’s knowledge, like something you couldn’t know on your own. Grace like pulling your hip out of your joint, like scratching the small patch of back you can’t reach. Grace that’s not of our own making.
The grace of being corporate—of being responsible for and dependent upon—the grace of other people. And then just grace. The mystical movements that strike life’s ordinary patterns like lightning, without warning: crying in the bathtub, closing old doors that could never shut, opening up paths you didn’t know you could take.
The sort of grace that pulls you out of darkness into its own wonderful light.
You can run now without pain.