By Cynthia Kepler-Karrer
First, read Psalm 118:15-18
What does victory feel like?
I began running in the fall of 2012, prodded by friends who had lost their infant daughter the year before. Christmas 2011, they made their move. “Join Team Mercy,” they encouraged. “Here’s the Couch to 5K app for your phone,” they said. “You’ll feel better,” they insisted.
I avoided joining, downloading and feeling better for most of the next year. But one day, on a health kick, I downloaded the app and began jogging along during our nightly dog walk.
By January of 2013 I nervously approached my first 5K. I couldn’t imagine myself running that far, but since this race awarded chocolate, I found motivation. After finishing the race, I immediately began looking for a 10K. I was hooked.
I found one in my own city on a Sunday about 10 weeks away. I downloaded Couch to 10K and went for it, though I found that distance was going to require more than chocolate. I started to establish both a playlist (songs I needed to keep my energy up), and, more importantly, a praylist.
Mercy Elizabeth Whitfield, my friends’ daughter, was on that list. So was my friend Cindy, who had died a couple of years previous. So was my husband’s beloved Aunt Junell, who died just before our last move.
Though a small injury kept me from fully completing my training, I still lined up that morning to run. I finished 6.2 miles with a steady pace and my heart full of prayers.
But something also felt empty. Mercy and Cindy and Junell - they were all still gone, as were others I prayed for. I was exhausted and aching. Was this what victory felt like? What glad song of victory was I singing?
I went home and cleaned up, making it to worship just as Holy Communion started. And I heard the familiar words: “And so with your people on earth and all the company of heaven…”
Suddenly, they were all there, singing with us, praising God with us. And that’s what victory felt like. I found it not in my own achievement or in the pushing back of grief, but in the knowledge that in the midst of death, the deaths of those I love and more importantly, Christ’s death, God is still present, guarding us and guiding us to eternal life. To Christ’s victory.
And so I sing and run. I have added more names to the praylist. But I look for them at the Table and, in God’s victory, remain to tell the stories of God.
1. When have you experienced victory and pain at the same time?
2. What stories of God’s victory do you tell?
3. As we near Holy Week, are you more aware of pain and loss in your life or in the world?
4. Where are the places you draw near to God’s victory?