The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 91: Reconstructing Faith, Part Three
Hi friends. Our short series on faith reconstruction finishes up this week with a story about my own process of deconstruction and reconstruction. If you’ve been around here for a while, you will know that I love a metaphor – honestly, metaphor is my very favorite means of communication – just one small thing Jesus and I have in common – anyway, today I’ll tell the true story of my painful hip injury and my long, drawn-out return to running and the whole thing with all of its many details is an unlikely allegory for my faith journey of the last few years. Along the way, I hope you’ll pick out some helpful parallels that might help you put language to your own reconstruction. Okay, so here’s my story.
At first, all I knew was that it hurt. I had been running regularly for many years. It was an integrated part of my routine and something I looked forward to, something that really was a part of me. But at a certain point, each time I tried to run or even walk for a distance, I felt a nagging pain in my left hip, a tightness, and an ache that I tried desperately to ignore. Something wasn’t right, and deep down I knew it. Probably this injury had been building for a while, small tweaks and tears that added up over time, but we all put off addressing the things we know will be hard to confront, don’t we? And honestly, it was relatively easy to run through it at first with just a shake of my head, a straightened spine, and a whispered reminder to myself to “keep going”. Because after all, I’m a runner. That’s who I am. And I hadn’t invested all this time and effort over so many years to stop now.
For a while, too long probably, I ran and walked through the pain and as I did, of course it got worse. I’m only human. The practice, ritual, and routine of running which had been so life-giving to me for so long had become depleting, worrying, and painful.
Ultimately, I couldn’t ignore the pain, so finally, I reluctantly surrendered to the rest my body had been desperate for. You might think that making the decision to rest would feel like relief, but on the contrary, it was kind of awful, discouraging, and even scary because I did not know what the future would hold. I was a person who went from the literal couch at age 41 all the way up to a half marathon. I ran three times a week, and it was so good for me physically, mentally, communally, and spiritually. I had progressed so far, and also, people around town knew me as a runner so there was that public element to it as well. I didn’t want to let anyone down. So, for all these reasons, taking a break with no guarantee about what was ahead felt scary and like failure, like giving up, but at this time, it also felt like I had no other choice. Running and even walking any real distance was just not an option for me any longer.
At just about the same time, I was looking around me to find lots of fellow runners on the sidelines. Something was happening for sure. There seemed to be common cause to the injuries that many of us were suffering, and though it did help to know that I wasn’t alone, I was motivated to try to understand more about why we were suffering. So, as I rested, I read up on the potential sources of my pain and on various solutions to my problem. I consulted peers who ran and were experiencing my same pain. I read books, listened to podcasts, went to running websites. I learned a ton about my body and about how the parts and systems connect, and how they were designed, about the anatomy, history, the art and science behind running. Much of this was like a whole new language, and it’s kind of shocking to me now as I look back just how many people run without this critical foundation of knowledge. But maybe the most important source of information in this time was in listening to myself as the body who was actually doing the running. It’s funny how I, as an experienced and educated runner was never taught to pay attention to what was happening inside of me while I was running. Sort of seems like a missed opportunity, doesn’t it?
In addition to my own study, I sought out experts for help: I went to an orthopedist, physical therapy, yoga, massage therapy, a chiropractor. I took supplements and did the home exercises and some of it worked, sometimes, but often it was two steps forward and one step back. My progress was slow and sometimes frustrating. As I look back, I see that each one of those ‘experts’ absolutely knew a piece of the puzzle that would help me get back to running, but it was amazing to me how they did not ever seem to talk to each other or to refer me out to a practice that might help. As a result, I so often felt like I was on my own to solve my own problem. My chiropractor, who was the one who ultimately helped me the most probably, said it was a shame how specialists in the field of healthcare tend toward silo-ing, or isolating their patients for themselves when it would be so much more effective to engage as a team to help solve the problem of pain. It’s a natural tendency of leaders to want to gather in the largest group possible. I get it, and numbers matter, I guess. But why would we think that any one practitioner would have all the answers, especially when their interventions don’t always lead to results. In a large organization, it’s surprisingly easy to get bogged down in the structure and routine of the business while forgetting the goal, in this case: restoration of a community to health, one human at a time.
I learned a lot from this time of rest and recovery. I learned to take in the wisdom of other people who have dealt with this particular kind of pain, realizing that there are so many of us out here. I’ve learned to gather in wisdom from a variety of experts so I can make a plan that works best for me and my goals. But maybe the most important thing I’ve learned is to trust myself. There is a wisdom that is bigger than me which lives within my body, and it will tell me which way to go if I will listen. Whether I walk or run at all is not primarily the business of any of the experts or friends who tried to help along the way. Honestly some of them were better than others, some so clearly more interested in my health than others, but at the end of the day, I’m not accountable to them. My relationship to running is mine to learn about. It’s my job to lace up my shoes and step out, and to shift and change my practice when needed. Things are slower now, sometimes I take a step or a few steps to just see how it will feel and I’ll make adjustments as I go. Sometimes what I think will be a run will turn into a walk, and that’s okay. I’ve run before so I know what it feels like to move with music in my ears and the sun on my shoulders. It feels like freedom, and it’s one of my favorite feelings in this world. So, I’ll keep trying, keep moving forward in a recovery that is authentic and whole rather than one that is speedy because I know now that wholeness is the path to flourishing.
This whole process has been a continuum of learning which started well before I was even aware of it. The first few steps I took as a toddler are connected in a very real way to the steps I take today. I’ve been building my body this whole time. Even though I don’t always understand that reality, I trust it, and I know I can trust this process and learn as I go.
So, what does running look like for me today?
As I step out in this new chapter of running, I’m less concerned about speed and finish lines and much more interested in health and wholeness as I keep moving forward. I’m making sure I have a good foundation. I stretch more. I’m building strength. I even got a new pair of shoes which are the same brand I’ve used forever but which are currently taking more time to break in than I’d like. So, we’ll see what happens there, as I pay more attention now to pain points than I did before. After all, when it comes to running, brand loyalty is so much less important than finding the right fit, don’t you think?
And I’m keeping up with the discipline of a chiropractor I trust. Each time I go, there is a crushing which can be uncomfortable, sure, but it always leaves me better aligned, more flexible, and it provides space within me plus relief and new energy to keep at it. Thank God this guy knows what he’s doing! In addition, I’m committed to weekly yoga with a teacher I love and a community of people who keep me accountable. Finally, there’s lots of work I do on my own, each day taking the time to stretch and grow stronger to work on my goal which is running my course well, one step at a time.
Well, as you’ve listened to my story today, friend, I hope you’ve pulled out a few truths that might help you on your own reconstruction journey. As you heal and grow stronger in faith, I hope you’ll listen to your inner voice. I hope you’ll embark in study on your own, that you’ll choose good mentors, that you’ll find flexibility and practices that work for you as you move forward. We’re all walking it out, friends, one step at a time and I’m honored that you’ve allowed me to walk beside you for a time today.
Thanks so much for listening. if you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with lots of resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Father, as we walk or run our course, help us to listen to your music in our ears and to feel the sun on our shoulders. Help us to keep our feet under us, and to move forward in health and wholeness, always remembering that we’re never ever going alone.
In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.
Well thanks so much for listening today, friend, and I’ll see you next time.
This week finishes up a series which explores the rebuilding of faith practices following or during a season of deconstruction. I hope the resources below will help you enter into this topic well.
f you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
1. Article: Why did Jesus Teach in Parables, by Got Questions
2. Walk it Out: Raised Catholic podcast episode 8 + transcript