As I write this month’s article on the topic of faith I find myself in the final stages of training to run the 2022 Manitoba Half Marathon. This race has traditionally been held on Father’s Day every year since 1979 (with some exceptions due to the pandemic).
The reason this particular race and the feelings it evokes jump into my mind when considering the word faith is that 39 years ago, at the age of 14, I ran it for the very first time. To this day it is still a mystery what possessed me to attempt this feat of endurance, but there I was, a gangly and awkward kid, 100 lbs. soaking wet, not knowing that day would be a foundationally important experience with lessons about life and faith at every turn.
But first, what does faith mean to me?
My relationship with this word is continuously evolving in spurts and starts. In the not-so-distant past when I would hear the word faith, my mind would almost instantly form images and ideas around religious gatherings, rituals, and an accepted belief that a higher power is in charge of my life. Just as quickly my thoughts would then dramatically shift to disbelief in the idea of a higher power, and move to a belief that only one power is worth believing in. A belief grounded in the power of self-reliance. Higher power be damned. If I wanted something done right, I had to do it myself. (A higher power will just fuck it up)
Discipline, hard work and an extreme focus on control became a way of life for me, and guess what. It worked! My self-reliance always produced real-world results. The business world loves a hardworking control freak, so success followed me everywhere I went. This reinforced the idea that the tighter I held on to control the better, and truly no one could be fully trusted, except for me. (Sound familiar?)
Being the guy who controlled all the details, although a celebrated skill in the business world did not necessarily make me the life of the party in my personal life. This may come as a surprise, but most people do not like to be controlled. Resentment quickly builds and relationships can fracture, or worse, break and disappear.
“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” – Corrie Ten Boom
Back in 1983, I lined up with about 10,000 other runners to run the Manitoba Half Marathon. I had never run more than 5 miles before, but to my young self 13 miles couldn’t have been that much harder. Just a bit farther and all would be well. My secret weapon was the gold and orange Nike shoes that my dad bought me. With those on I was instantly transformed into a long-distance running machine.
When the starting gun went off the large group of participants shuffled through the congestion. I still remember being near the back of the pack and once past the start line, feeling released like a bullet out of a gun. I ran like the wind, caught up in the excitement of the moment, unaware I should be pacing myself for a long day of running. I felt exhilarated as I passed hundreds of people until I noticed someone was injured and limping.
Something in me felt possessed to check in with the injured runner, so I slowed down to run beside him and asked how he was doing. He was taken by surprise to have a 14-year-old kid checking in on him. I was also taken by surprise when it turned out he was a professional football player for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I loved football so it was very cool for me to try to help him out. We ran together and chatted for a few minutes until he told me he would be all right and encouraged me to carry on, so I did.
I continued running fast, loving the excitement of the day and the thrill of passing so many other runners. I was all smiles and felt rock solid like I was going to crush this race. That is until I hit the 5-mile mark and some discomfort started.
Running more than 5 miles was no man’s land for me. It was further than I had ever run in my short lifetime. At the 6-mile marker, my discomfort started to transform into pain, but I was determined so I shook it off and carried on. At 7 miles, I started to question my sanity as I felt pains I had never experienced before and by mile 8 miles was ready and determined to quit the race.
I hobbled up to the 8-mile water station feeling like I was going to die, looking for a race official so I could exit the race. But before I could spot anyone there was a tap on my shoulder, and to my surprise, standing behind me was one of my favourite humans in the whole wide world. My grade 4, 5, and 6 school teacher. He was absolutely a key influence in my young life and still is to this day.
He asked, “What are you doing?”
“Quitting.” I said
“No, you are not, come and run with me”
Without a moment’s hesitation, I followed him. I was so shocked and happy to see him that all my pain disappeared. We ran together, chatted, and caught up with each other’s lives. Of all the people on the planet I could have chosen to run with, my elementary school teacher would have been my #1 choice, and there he was… spooky stuff.
At 11 miles I started to slow down so he asked if he could carry on as he was trying to achieve a personal best time. I agreed and he ran ahead, but without his company and distraction my body started to shut down and I hit the runner’s wall with so many talks about. By the time I got to the 12-mile water station (the last for the race), I did not think I could go any further. The pain was excruciating, so again I went looking for a race official so I could call it quits.
As I ran towards the water station scanning the group of volunteers for someone to talk to, my grandmother appeared, leaping out of the line of volunteers to give me a cup of water and cheer me on. She had heard I was running this race and decided to volunteer. I took the water from Granny and smiled. I was inspired by her presence, so I kept running not wanting to let her down.
Once around the corner and out of Grandma’s site, with less than a mile to go, I started to walk. I had lost feeling in my legs and felt accomplished having run further than I had ever done before. I decided there would be no shame in walking over the finish line and accepting my metal. But at that exact moment, the crowd started to cheer and not just cheer but cheered loudly.
I was taken by surprise and for a short moment, thought they were cheering for me, somehow knowing how hard a day I’d had. That is until I glanced over my shoulder and saw the winner of the full marathon coming up fast behind me. He was a member of the Canadian Olympic team, and the crowd was cheering him on to finish strong.
So with this realization, I did what any 14-year-old kid, powered by gold and orange Nike’s would do. I raced him to the finish line. Swept along by the cheers of the crowd it was clear to me this was not my day to quit or even walk the last half-mile of the race.
This day at the Manitoba Marathon back in 1983 had faith written all over it. It is clear a higher power wanted me to complete that race and truly conspired to make it happen. All the right people crossed my path as if by design to make completing this race a possibility.
“Feed your faith and your fear will starve” – Anonymous
My ever-evolving idea of Faith requires practicing letting go of control and replacing it with trust. Staying focused on control keeps me in an almost constant state of hyper-awareness. From this state, I rob myself of being in the joy presented by the beautiful moments life has to offer.
Faith for me provides a bridge between a scarcity to an abundance mindset. In scarcity, I spend so much time worrying about the future and obsessing about the past. From scarcity, I will often worry if there will be enough money, time, accomplishments, recognition, and love to have a fulfilling life. But operating from a position of faith, the answer is always a resounding yes to all of the above. In faith I see abundance everywhere I look. This allows me to release the past, see a bright future and most importantly, live in the present moment.
From a position of Faith, I can see that people are absolutely doing the best they can. This powerful viewpoint allows me to release resentment from my heart and judgment from my mind. From this place, I can see the good in people and truly experience them, human-to-human. This creates a safe space where we can all be ourselves and truly connect on a deep level.
As I open myself up more and more to faith, I can see that magic starts to happen. That day back in 1983 was nothing short of miraculous, with all the right people showing up at exactly the right times.
As I embrace more faith in my life, I start to see that every day has been the same as that miraculous day, always with the right people, situations, challenges and opportunities strategically put into my path. Every day is perfect and just the way it is meant to be. A higher power is always truly conspiring in my favour.
“True faith is not a leap into the dark; it’s a leap into the light.” – Eric Metaxas