More Than Sitting on the Sidelines

 

One day I realized something was different. Something was missing. I’d misplaced it. As often as I claimed that I was making a concerted effort to loosen its grasp on me, the truth was that I was clinging to it. Clinging to loneliness.

True, there was a season when loneliness was an unwelcome side effect of healing. I was that kid, sitting on the sidelines alone, nursing my injured heart while the others ran gleefully around the track. Occasionally another injured soul would join me on the bench, where we’d exchange our tales of woe. Or a concerned friend would sit beside me, offering a brief punch in the shoulder. “Cheer up, you’ll be back out there in no time.”

But what if I didn’t want to be back out there, exposed and at risk for another heart break? Of what worth could that risk be?

I had let life let me down, and choosing loneliness over the blow of another let down just seemed… comfortable. So I cozied up with it long after my wounds had healed. “I’m healing” became my alibi. It was why I turned down a date. Why I wouldn’t join my coworker at Mines Falls for the Monday night trail runs. Why I wouldn’t join CrossFit. My hip was healing. My heart was healing.

I never dared to peek under that bandaid to see if the wound was still there. What if it wasn’t, and I had to peel off the bandage and live with the scar?! But one day I realized something was different.

Something was missing. The bandage had fallen off, a fresh scar marking its place. NO! I wanted the bandage back! The safety of loneliness. The excuses that healing lent me. The comfort of the sideline!

When asked why she got back on her surfboard after literally having her arm gnawed off by a shark, pro surfer Bethany Hamilton’s response was this:

“What if you crash on the bike, get run over while jogging, or break your neck in the fall while water skiing, climbing or snowboarding, or get bitten by a rattler while hiking? See what I mean? Life is full of what-ifs. You can’t let them hold you back. If you do, you’re really not living LIFE at all… just kind of going through the motions with no meaning.”

This is why I let it all go – The bandage, the loneliness, the excuses and the sidelines. Rather than go through the motions another day, I signed up for CrossFit. I started attending church again. And I said YES when my coworker invited me yet again to that trail run at Mines Falls!

Now, five weeks later, I don’t think I have the potential to be lonely even when I am alone. I arrive home to a seemingly empty apartment. But my full heart soon overflows, filling the lonesome cracks. Full from rich conversations with new friends. Meetings that end in laughter. Trail runs that end with high fives. I still relish those moments alone. But they are no longer a bandage of loneliness that I hide under. They are calm pockets of reflection on how beautiful it is to truly LIVE life!

I am no longer going through the motions. Am I at risk for a crash or two? For certain. But God made me for so much more than going through the motions. And so, as I wrap up the first day of a new decade, I bid adieu to the sidelines. Life is calling, and I must go!

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