We're visiting family in Nashville this week. I have needed to pray. Things have been challenging of late. I won't get into the story right now. But my prayers keep getting stuck. So I have run the route that I have run here for nearly ten years. Belmont. Portland. 18 South. 17 South. Edgehill. 19 South. Scarritt. Vandy and down near Centennial. And back. I have run a lot this week. I have run hard and I have run fast.
I have learned that my feet can say prayers that my words cannot. It's not that I do not pray with words, but sometimes language runs into a dead end. I cannot say what I want to say or don't even know what I need to say. In Romans 8, Paul talks about the Holy Spirit interceding for us when we hit those points when our words dry up. That happens, but more often than not I think the Spirit wants to move.
As the pavement pounds, my feet shout ecstatic joy. Or they plod with anxious struggle. When my stride hits a giddy childlike bound, I am grateful for the world and everything in it. When my legs seem like hundred pound weights, they swear at God. As I run there are times when I feel weak and others when I feel strong. The physicality to the running gives shape and form that my words struggle to attain.
It is not only my feet that prays, but the noise in my ears. The rhythm of my breath. A passing car. A child playing. The buzzing of a weed eater. The melody of the birds. It's a reminder that I am in this world. It is not just me but there are a million things that live and move and have being. Even when I plug in my headphones, my racing feet transform the music into prayers. Gungor, Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar, Jars of Clay, Florence + the Machine, and a playlist of others all become hymns.
People ask me why I run and my simple response is that it keeps me healthy and sane. But these past few days I have been reminded that running is a tether that keeps me tied to God when my words have a difficult time holding on. Roads, sidewalks, and trails are the Book of Psalms. They are full of joy, hope, anguish, despair, and need. The road is a psalm and my feet read through its pages.