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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Running with Eagle's Wings

Last weekend I ran a Mother’s Day Half Marathon with two of my sons. The run, in so many ways, felt like a word picture for my season of life. A long stretch of training. A good bit of uncertainty. And a whole lot of surrendered dependency on God. 

It had been a year and a half since my last long run. Nearly every October I run the Twin City Ten Mile with a dear friend and former neighbor, but last year I missed the registration. In the meantime, I’ve continued to run for exercise, but with far less consistency and motivation than back in the days when I trained with Cheryl. So when my son Luke asked if I’d be interested in running a half in New York City the day before his law school graduation, I tentatively said yes. Prior to committing, I made an appointment with my chiropractor, also a runner, to ask if he thought my body was up to the challenge. He encouraged me to try it—but emphasized the importance of training. 

And so I began to train. Fortunately, our Minnesota winter was mild, and our spring early, allowing for maximum access to an ice-free road along our lake. Somewhere around mid-February I took to the streets. And from the start, I wondered—often—if I’d actually be able to do it. A jog from my driveway to the end of our road (one-sixth of my eventual training route) made muscles burn and joints feel vulnerable. At one point in late March I had to put training on hold for over a week when I pulled a pectoral muscle getting out of bed one morning. Things did not look promising. 

And then, sometime along the way, I began to PRAY for strength. Acknowledging the reality that I did not possess in my own aging body the physical capacity to run 13.1 miles—I began to invite the Spirit to fill me with his own energizing wind. And He responded. Time and again. It was a crazy experience. I’d begin running…aware of niggling aches and pains…a knee, a calf, a cramping toe…and I’d surrender each part of my body to God. Not my own strength—but His. 

He gives strength to the faint

and strengthens the powerless.

Youths may become faint and weary,

and young men stumble and fall,

but those who trust in the Lord

will renew their strength;

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not become weary,

they will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

Just a block or so down the road from our house, in a massive pine, there is an eagle’s nest. The thing is ginormous. Seriously. Until living here on the shores of Green Lake, I had no concept. It may not be an exaggeration to say the nest has nearly the volume of my own king-sized bed. Each time I run within eyeshot, I peer through the trees, hoping to catch a glimpse of an adult eagle feeding its young. And then, on the day of my longest training workout—less than two weeks before my New York race—the eagles were soaring. Gliding back and forth along my stretch of road, directly over my head. 

And I was soaring with them. 

I knew then I’d make it. I was ready. I’d run this race on His wings. 

The Apostle Paul, on several occasions, compared himself to a runner. He wrote about running with discipline and purpose, to receive an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). And as his own clock ticked gradually toward his earthy life’s completion, Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). 

A word picture worth pursuing, don’t you think? 

Thus the connection to my current season. 

If life is a marathon, I am several miles this side of the half. I am not yet, God willing, within eyeshot of the finish. I’ve likely got a long stretch left. And I still have the stamina to do something with it. The fact is, I’ve probably never felt more equipped to do the work to which He’s called me. Life’s training has given me wisdom, humility, and experience. I look back a couple of decades and I can see much progress. In many ways, I’ve never felt more ready to do my life’s work. And at the same time, I’ve never been more aware of my utter dependance on His provision and strength. 

If I’m to soar into the next decade of life and ministry, it will be on the Eagle’s wings. 

The day of our half marathon it was chilly and raining in New York City. Not my ideal conditions. I ran with two of my sons—Luke, who lives there, and Nils, who’d flown out with his wife from California. This was Nils’ first attempt at a long run, and being it was Mother’s Day, he thought it would be fun to keep pace with his mama. But after our first lap through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, his young legs were cramping. They needed stretching. I gave my son a bit of coaching. I told him he needed a longer stride. Fun as it was to run it together, I needed to set him free. Each of us needed to run our own race. 

And we did. Luke, with his ridiculously long legs and marathon experience, took second, overall. Nils finished his first ever half marathon at an impressive pace, and felt great. And I…

Finished the race. Water-logged and a few minutes shy of my goal, but third place among the gals my age, with no real aches or pains to speak of. Fully relying on the wings of Spirit. Humility of age, perseverance of practice, keeping the faith. 

Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength…

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