I went for a run this morning at 4:15, in the snow. I cinched my Alaska Grown hoodie down tight around my face to keep some of the snowflakes from landing in my eyes. Even still, it was hard to see whenever I would run against the direction the snow was falling. I ran just a couple days ago and my calves were still sore, so this morning’s jog was painfully slow and a mile shorter than my last run. But I did it and in spite of the weather and the early morning, I welcomed a rare moment alone.
As I felt my tennis shoes thud ungracefully through the snow, I realized this run was a metaphor for my life.
It was a difficult weekend for me, mentally and emotionally, which is ironic because for the past month or so, I’ve been on a roll. I’ve been the happiest and most optimistic I’ve been in a long time. Most mornings, I’ve been getting up early enough to spend some time in the scriptures. I’ve been eating really well about 95% of the time and I’ve also been exercising. Historically, I’ve either exercised consistently or eaten well. Rarely have I done both at the same time. Overall, I’ve just been really pushing myself in positive ways and as a result, my energy has been really good and my outlook on life as well. So it really threw me for a loop when Saturday came around and I experienced a mini depression. Stuff that I thought I had put behind me came back to taunt me, fears I thought I had overcome crept up again and I was miserable. As I was crying to my husband about what I was going through, he said “Kendra, you have been doing so good. You’ve been working so hard to better yourself in all areas of your life, so of course the adversary would try to get in your way!” It didn’t sink in immediately, but a couple days later it clicked. He was right.
Rodney Atkins has a song that goes:
I don’t think the song is 100% accurate though. The devil does know you’re there, because he helped put you there. In my life, I am learning to recognize the different voices in my head (no, I’m not crazy ;)).
I think a lot of the chatter in my head is my own voice questioning, doubting, wondering: “Should I…?”, “What if I…”, “Maybe I should…”
God’s voice is quiet, clear and direct. Simple thoughts about things that I should or shouldn’t do. They uplift and inspire and warn, when necessary. They don’t clamour for my attention and they never make me feel discouraged. “Reach out to so-and-so.”, “Write this down.”, “Put down your phone.”, “Go spend some time with this kid. He needs your attention.”
Conversely, the adversary fills me with doubt, brings all of my deepest fears to the forefront, and clutters my brain with incessant reminders of why I’m not good enough and why every little problem in my life is absolutely insurmountable. Thoughts like: “Why are you doing this?”, “You’re not even very good.”, “You would be such a better mother if…”, “You’re so average”, “Why try??”, until life feels pretty dark and bleak and hopeless.
The crazy thing is that when I’m in the middle of that place, it feels. so. real. It’s only when I’m on the other side of it that I can see it for what it was: an attempt to stop me from making the progress God intends for me. Which is why I want to call it out and identify it here, so that hopefully the next time I’m in that space I can remind myself that life isn’t half as bad as it feels in that moment and that things will get better. C.S. Lewis is one of my absolute favorite writers of all time. If you haven’t read his book The Screwtape Letters, put it at the top of your list. The gist of the book is that Screwtape is an experienced devil who is writing letters to instruct his nephew, Wormwood, in how to tempt. One of my favorite quotes in the book is this:
“You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say…”I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”…You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy (God). It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”~ C. S. Lewis
So this reminder is primarily for me and if you’re going through something similar, I hope this is helpful for you as well:
Whatever you do, just keep moving, no matter how slowly or painfully. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. The sun will rise. Your situation will improve. You will improve! It is all worth it and there is more in store for you and me than we can possibly imagine. As you keep pressing forward, through the cold, through the dark, you will become stronger, the pathway will become clearer, the sky will get brighter and you’ll look back and see that the Lord’s hand was there the whole time, leading you along. All He needs you to do is to keep moving forward.