It’s on my bucket list—to run in an organized 5K race. And I want it to be connected to a cause that’s personally meaningful to me.
Tested my stamina on various routes.
And I almost mustered the courage to register for a race over 4th of July weekend.
Then I found out that my daughter’s friend was participating and he planned to finish in 17 min. That changed everything! I’m way too insecure to have a 16 year old boy charge past me and wave on his way to the finish line while I’m huffing and puffing on the first half of the course.
So, it’s not a bucket list cross off yet– not until I do the deed with the crowds, in the morning, regardless of the heat, and in spite of my anxiety. But, I did identify a creative alternative so I could at least pencil in my check off.
I like to jog at night. I pretty much prefer doing everything at night… so at around 11:30 on 4th of July eve, I tied my seafoam colored running shoes, put on my reflective vest with flashing lights, stretched my calf muscles, turned on my exercise playlist and took to the road. By then, there were just occasional loud popping-sizzling fireworks sounds like the last kernels of popcorn in a pan on the stove. The moon, a waning crescent, left the sky otherwise pitch black. I could barely see the next step in front of me, but I know this route. It’s become my friend. Over and over again, I’ve coerced my body out onto the pavement and told it to move and breathe, so even in the witching hours, I know where the drains are, where the pavement is tilted and in my neighborhood, the road belongs to me.
And so, I jogged in the holiday 2021 on my own personal 5K run–just me and Jesus because he’s the only one I jog with. It took me a lot more than 17 minutes but that’s OK. I’m not a 16 year old boy. I’m me and I’m doing my best.
As I jogged, I reflected on my life lived out as a citizen in this country–something I consider worth celebrating.
Here is where I jog on paved roads and groomed rail trails. It may not seem like a big deal but I’ve been to places where the norm was potholes big enough to make my dad cuss.
My feet and my knees and my back and my shoulders and my heart and my lungs are all able to work together to propel me forward because when I’ve been sick, I’ve received excellent health care and because of masks and vaccines combined with the mysterious grace of God, I didn’t die of COVID.
This is where I’ve lived out my story and in a lot of ways, it’s been a really cush place to do it in. I’m the majority culture, white European descent, with all its privileges and benefits.
I have a flushing toilet, clean drinking water, a Meijer grocery store, which in my humble opinion, is preferable to Walmart.
I’ve seen red rocks, mountain ranges, rainforests, oceans, urban metroplexes and sweeping farmlands with amber waves of grain.
I live in the best state for me with the greatest lake ever less than an hour away.
My children have received an excellent education and we had choices about what that would be.
We are free to read what we like, to learn what we can, to speak what we want to say and to worship as we see fit.
In my city, immigrants from the Netherlands and all over Europe are neighbors to refugees from Syria and the Congo, creating a menagerie of eclectic diversity.
And every year that I’ve staked my space on the sidewalk at the local 4th of July parade, I’ve consumed snowcones and cotton candy while kids on every side of me fill their plastic Meijer bags with candy.
I’m proud to be an American and grateful for a multitude of fresh new mercies morning after morning. And, I am disappointed, even ashamed, of its personal, communal and political toxicity past and present.
This country—it’s a mixed bag. We have much to celebrate and much to grieve.
Should its goodness be diminished? No way!
Should its faults be ignored? Absolutely not!
This global planet orbiting around the sun and all of its inhabitants simultaneously bear both a reflection of God and the contaminate of sin. Until God restores all that’s been broken to its original glory, living with this co-mingling of good and evil is an inevitable reality and attempts to sweep our imperfections under the rug in order to preserve a photo-shopped image of greatness is an illusion—a slight of the hand, a trick of they eye.
Being a citizen of this country is a lot like being a member of a family. Every family’s story is ugly-beautiful. The healthiest family owns it all, not just the posed snapshot where everyone wears khakis and a white shirt, their skin tan, feet bare, toes in the sand, smiling. That picture genuinely represents a moment, a glimpse, a slice out of the whole. But those same parents may have gone to war hours earlier about the cost of the photo shoot and on the drive there, the kids elbowed each other in a power struggle from the back seat then blamed the innocent sibling who was minding her own business when their frustrated parent yelled impatiently at them to “Cut it out back there,” and threatened to take away the ice cream cone promised as a carrot for their cooperation. And that photo, it doesn’t show the wounds in their hearts from systemic patterns of shaming each other, the feelings of isolation because their parents are more engaged with their phones than attuning to their children, the competition between siblings for “favorite” child status. That picture doesn’t show how they look in the cold, dark dead of winter and it doesn’t tell what the walls in their home could speak.
Same is true of our nation’s birthday. It’s commemorates what’s pretty, what’s good, what we appreciate. It’s not about the domestic unrest, the injustice, the discrimination, the violence we enact against each other and our failure to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. But both realities are woven into the fiber of life in America.
David French says, we love our country “not because it is always great—or even always good- but because it is our home. Its citizens are our neighbors. It is our national family. As with any family, loving our family means knowing our family. And yes, that means telling our full story, the good, the back and the ugly. It means hearing from admirers and critics alike. We should approach our national history with this sense of curiosity and security. You won’t make me hate my home. You can, however, motivate me to preserve what is pristine and repair what is broken. You can make me proud of the beauty and sorry for the injustice.”
And that kind of genuine curiosity can transfer beyond the purview of our national identity to a spirit of inquiry about our neighbors, our families and even ourselves. And that’s a cause I’d jog a marathon for.