Why on earth did I decide to do this?
That was the question bouncing around in my head every day for 12 weeks.
Two days before sports camp started at my boarding school, I’d decided to switch from my usual fall sport to cross-country running. Even though I immediately loved running and the progress I made, I hated the soreness after practices and the feeling that I was pushing against a barrier that wouldn’t budge. I also had small struggles on and off with catching my breath. Still, I decided to challenge myself and continue with the sport.
As our first meet approached, I became incredibly nervous about it. But I knew I could pray, since prayer had helped me in the past when I’d been feeling nervous or unsettled. When I pray, sometimes I get quiet and listen for a good or comforting thought from God; other times I think about a specific passage from, for instance, the Christian Science Hymnal, and how it applies to my situation.
This time around, I’d been praying with part of a verse from Hymn 144: “In atmosphere of Love divine, / We live, and move, and breathe” (Robert P. Stewart). The words that stood out to me were move and breathe, because that’s what I thought I needed to focus on for my race.
The meet arrived, and time seemed to speed up in the moments right before the start of the race. Then the starting gun sounded, and I was off with the rest of the competitors. I was running well—until I hit the mile mark and was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that I couldn’t get any air past my throat. Slowing down only made it worse; I felt like I was suffocating.
Then I heard it—through all the shouting of the fans, a still, small voice telling me, “Run faster.” And then, “In atmosphere of Love divine, / We live, and move, and breathe.”
At first, it kind of startled me. It didn’t sound like my own thoughts, because all I wanted was to stop running, so I knew I couldn’t possibly be telling myself to run faster. I also knew that no person around me had said anything. But there it was, that firm but comforting message. So I decided to listen to it; I ran faster. Immediately my breathing improved, and I continued steadily through the two miles left in the course.
The only conclusion I could draw was that I’d heard God’s voice.
After I heard that message, I had the rest of the race to figure out where it had come from, and the only conclusion I could draw was that I’d heard God’s voice. The clarity of those lines from the hymn hit me in a completely new way. And there had also been an emphasis on the word we. That emphasis helped me realize that the race wasn’t about a single “I”—wasn’t about me running the race alone. God was right there with me.
That message was enough at the time to change the course of my race, but I later realized that we wasn’t really the right word for it, because I am actually one with God; God is the source of all my abilities. I was also happy I could carry these thoughts of my oneness with God through the rest of my cross-country season, and I never had any breathing problems after that.
I am extremely grateful for this spiritual breakthrough, because this idea of being one with God has helped me break through so many barriers I’d previously thought of as permanent. For example, in swimming: There have been a lot of races I’ve wanted to quit, because I felt they would either embarrass me or “destroy” me if I attempted them. But the thought of this experience on the cross-country course, in which I glimpsed that I couldn’t be separate from God, has helped me overcome many of those fears. And I know it will continue to help me going forward.