I am a lot of things.
I’m a proud single woman. I’m a 24-year old wheelchair user. I’m a daughter, sister, and cousin. I’m a Christian. I’m a coffee and sheep fanatic. I’m an aspiring doctor. I’m a piano player.
Naturally, I could go on and I’m sure you could too. I mean, just stop for a minute and think about all the things you are. It doesn’t take long to come up with a list of 10 different "hats” you wear and I’d venture to guess that coming up with a slightly longer list of 50 “hats” would be much easier than the organic chemistry final exam I somehow survived in college.
We all are a lot of things; each individual person blessed with unique hobbies and passions, aspirations and fears, responsibilities and identities.
You know, those identities are remarkable things; so diverse and yet connected by their application in a single person. Some you’re simply born into (daughter, sister), others you have to work really hard for (valedictorian, store manager). Some identities last for a few months while others seem to be such a big part of who you are that the thought of them being taken away is down right frightening.
Imagine no longer being a sister or a mother. Imagine no longer having your comfortable job or being a happy home/apartment owner/renter. Imagine those big identities you always thought were permanent fixtures in your life … becoming transient. Disappearing. Vanishing. No seriously, imagine it.
I guess it’s a hard thing to imagine. It’s hard until it happens to you, then you don’t ever forget it. Naturally we should expect to experience some amount of transition and change in the identities of our lives. We all grow older, maybe enter into relationships whether they’re in the form of friendships or significant others, get new jobs or hobbies, and on and on; of course it makes sense that some “transient identities” are to be expected. But it becomes a challenge when so many of those seemingly “permanent” identities seem to evaporate into thin air.
I was a runner in college. Now, I wasn’t a competitive (or even good) runner, I just did it for fun as a healthy form of stress relief. Yet, it was a big (and growing) part of who I was. I’d always make time to squeeze runs into my busy schedule of work, classes, and extra-curricular activities; exhaling in contentment as I tightened the laces of my running shoes, anxious for the solitude and rhythm of my feet pounding that cold Minnesotan cement. Having run a half marathon and training to run a full marathon in summer 2013, it’s no surprise to say paralysis put a bit of a damper on things.
Looking back, it’s funny how hard I thought training for those 26.2 miles I’d never run with my own two legs was, when in reality it was no comparison to the training God was about to give me in the marathon of life and those identities I once held so close.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. Romans 5:3
It’s so easy to think of the blessings of this world as permanent. These little gifts (that are really big gifts) as things we will always have. The ability to hug our parents or children, the ability to stand up and run, the ability to bring home a paycheck and provide for ourselves and/or family. In reality, each of those abilities and beautiful aspects of our identities are gifts from our loving and merciful Father in heaven. Trials and problems will happen, but thanks to our unchanging identity in Christ, we know and can trust in His perfect plan for our often seemingly chaotic lives.
There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “when God closes a door, he’ll open up a window.” Obviously, I no longer run like I used to, but thanks to one of God’s windows, I certainly can and do still race. I now use a racing chair and actually just finished my second marathon on Saturday, June 18 where I raced in Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN.
I can't help but chuckle when I think about my athletic abilities pre and post injury, because I'm exponentially more athletic disabled than I ever was "abled." Finishing in a new personal best of 2:14:38, I can now say I've qualified for Boston two years in a row and have loved the people I've been able to meet through these adaptive racing endeavors. My running identity looks different than it did when I was in college, but God has allowed something remarkable to take shape in a place I thought would forever remain empty.
Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1
I'm thankful that God allows me to still have this identity of "racer" but I've come to learn that my never transient, always there, stable and permanent identity in Christ will carry me much farther than 26.2 miles.
Look at your identities.
Find your blessings in this race of life.
Run with joy and endurance each and every day.
Sam Schroth is a perpetual learner, loving to live life to its absolute fullest each and everyday the Lord blesses her with. Currently in the midst of applying to medical school while adjusting to life as a paraplegic, Sam is “Never Sitting Still” as she learns and grows in God’s grace and never ending love.