Have you ever run a marathon?
The closest I’ll get to a long distance race is cheering for others as they cross the finish line.
Except for in life. Life has its way of setting our course on a marathon whether we want to run it or not. We may not actually run—thank goodness, but we find ourselves enduring. Circumstances change around us. Needs arise. We look around and realize we’re persevering on a difficult course with the finish line in the distance.
Eventually, hopefully, the intense season comes to an end. We cross the finish line. And life returns to “normal”. Or that’s what we think. We hope.
Real marathon runners know “normal” doesn’t happen immediately. They know their bodies require recovery before they return to their routine running regimen. Their muscles need time to repair the broken down tissues. They need rest. Sleep. And gentle recovery activities.
In life’s marathons, we forget about recovery. Maybe we forget because we can’t actually see the limp of the heart or the soreness of the soul.
So we cross the finish line, finally, and we’re ready for normal to resume. We sleep late on Saturday, catch a good movie that night. Then Monday, it’s back to work as usual.
The schedule resumes. But the soul lingers in recovery.
Lately I’ve been thinking about after the marathon. Because that’s where I find myself. We walked my Dad home through December following an already intense couple of months of ministry. We finally returned home, and since January, I’ve been ready for normal. But I’ve also been aware that my soul needed recovery time.
My soul needed to repair its broken down tissue. I needed to create space in my life for God to do his healing work. Because, thankfully, recovery is not just up to me.
God promises to restore the soul. He heals the broken hearted and wounded. He gives rest when we’re tired and weary. He leads us to quiet waters where he renews our strength. We just have to follow him to those quiet waters before running hard again.
Today I want to share with you some ideas for soul recovery following a life marathon. Here are 3 tips to help you create space for God to minister to your soul before you start running fast, long and hard again.
1. Give yourself permission to recover.
Maybe you return to the normal routine on the outside—because work and family don’t wait. But you don’t feel normal on the inside. If your soul walked with a limp, it would still be limping. And that’s okay. Give yourself permission to recover and trust that your normal self will return with time.
Permission allows you to be honest with yourself and God about what’s going on inside instead of believing—and pushing through–the façade of normal.
Sleep is an important part of recovery. It gives rest to the soul as much as it rests the body. The first night after I returned from Louisiana, I slept nearly 13 hours. My body was tired. And so was my soul. I needed some consistent deep rest before resuming “normal”.
But sleep isn’t the only part of rest for recovery. Rest can include activities that are, well, restful. Or fun.
So find fun again. It gets lost in life’s marathons. Fun restores the sore soul like a massage restores aching muscles.
When you’re recovering after one of life’s marathons, rest–get sleep and have fun. It helps the soul recover and gain strength before pushing yourself again.
3. Active Recovery.
Marathon runners don’t turn into couch potatoes for the next month after crossing the finish line. At least not healthy runners. But they don’t begin their intense running regimen the next day either. They engage in active recovery—lighter exercises that keep them moving without straining the muscles.
For soul recovery, we can do the same. We can be careful not to return to a level of intensity too quickly. But we don’t have to be isolated couch potatoes either. Find ways to give that are more like a warm up than an intensive work out.
Say no—if you can– to things that would make you dig too deep emotionally and spiritually. Gary and I cancelled a month long trip we had planned in February because we knew it would be too much for this season.
Say yes to “light lifting” rhythms of life and ministry. Soon enough, the soul is restored to run the distance and speed you are accustomed to, back to “normal”.
Marathons happen in life. They are seasons when we are called to give or perform intensely, tirelessly, and for a long period of time. It may come from family, work, ministry, or unpredictable circumstances.
Whatever the source, it tires the body. And the soul.
When you cross the finish line, pay attention to your soul. Give yourself permission for recovery, rest and gently resume active recovery activities.
Create space in your life for God to restore the soul.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3