One of my joys these past weeks has been the chance to run. I ran around a beautiful lake and beside a forest. I ran along paved streets and easy sidewalks. I even ran down the tree-lined street with my friend Stephanie riding her bike alongside me. But these past weeks, as I enjoyed easy runs and reflected on some of the harder times in my life, I started thinking about how and why I started running. I actually started running twenty-two years ago because I wasn’t acing PE due to low endurance, so my friend dragged me on afterschool runs around our bus stops. I thought I needed to be a distance runner because she was. I dragged my body up hills and on hour-long runs. One summer, I ran twice a day so that I could get 500 miles in before school started up. My life was a constant battle with shin injuries and ankle injuries. I was okay if I put in more effort than most, but it wasn’t easy. Like my body wasn’t made for it.
And then I discovered the quarter mile. I loved the feeling of flying just one lap around the track. And I was good at it. My math teacher introduced ten hurdles into that race, and I was in my element. As a freshman in high school, I went from struggling to be in the school’s top ten to easily winning races for my team. “Most Improved” they awarded me the first year as we won our league and went onto state. But it wasn’t so much that I improved – I had just found my fit. I was a middle-distance runner. I was a hurdler.
I’ve been thinking about good fits this past year. Sometimes I wish I could be a missionary or a doctor like the people I see around me, or the people who came before me. It’s easy for me to do things that most doctors don’t like to do, like research, grant writing, systems-level improvements, and protocols. I get a rush of excitement when looking at statistics and trying to solve problems that arise through numbers. But I don’t get that rush when a patient comes in with a traumatic injury or when I have to make the first cut for a surgery. Other things are harder for me than just work hours and living conditions. It is hard for me to work day after day in a system that is broken, especially a system that wears out its components and shows little promise of improving. Some doctors can persist in any sort of environment as long as they can help one patient a day, or as long as a hospital stays open one more day. But I crave a bigger impact.
I understand that a strong team needs individuals with all kinds of strengths just like a track team needs all types of runners. I know what it feels like to be in a place that is not a good fit. I’ve prayed a lot about wisdom to know what things I can fix and what things cannot be fixed and what to do with myself in between them. I know that I shouldn’t try to fit myself into someone else’s mission or calling. But what is the next step if I know I’m a middle distance runner and I find myself on a cross country team? I could survive for a while, but I couldn’t thrive. I remember the joy of a good fit, and the pain of being in a place where I have to struggle to stay afloat. As long as a potential exists for me to use my talents to help bring healing in a way that fits my mission, I cannot continue struggling to accommodate to a vision that is inconsistent with my values. If there are things I cannot change that are so integral to me that I cannot thrive without them, if I cannot justify changing the parts of myself necessary to fit where I am, then I need to change that. This year is ending, and I think many people are happy to see it go. Nobody knows what the future will hold. But I think I will be striding over some hurdles and embracing whatever changes are necessary to achieve a better ministry fit.