Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Blog #14 Trying to Make Sense of Things: Why does God Allow Suffering?

I haven’t written a blog in a long time, and there is a reason for that. There hasn’t been anything exciting happening in a long time. I contemplated writing a blog a few months ago, but I have already written depressing blogs about going through injuries, and I was hesitant to make another one of those and appear to make it look like I’m trying to make people feel sorry for me.  That is obviously not my intention, but I do think that since I started this blog a few years ago, I should continue with it, even when I don’t have anything relevant to write about regarding my racing and training.

 I haven’t had that feeling of enjoyment of being able to run without any significant injury issues since last June. I also had to deal with a breakup with my girlfriend in November. One positive thing is that I finished my Master’s last semester, but now I am finding it difficult to figure out where God wants me next. I also had to make a tough decision to no longer be a member of Speed River, at least for this year. Although I really enjoyed being part of the group, the fact that I am both injured and finished my Master’s and basically unemployed makes it hard to justify staying in Guelph long term. My original plan was to continue training while doing some part time tutoring to pay the rent and food. Well...right now I am injured, and I’m not getting too much tutoring business. I’ll go insane if I restrict myself to staying in Guelph and waiting to be healthy enough to do workouts again. I don’t know how much longer I’ll have to wait until I can run with joy and run at the competitive level that is necessary for me to really benefit from being part of such a strong training group. I have the best opportunity to achieve my running goals here and I can’t pursue them. It’s BEYOND frustrating! I don’t want to stay in Guelph if there is such a high risk that it will be a long time before I am healthy enough to train with the top distance running unit in Canada. I am better off pursuing something else and taking the time I need to fully recover, without any pressure to start training with Speed River. If I put that pressure on myself to get back training with the group, I know myself enough to know that I am more likely to try to run through pain that I shouldn’t.

As far as the details of my running injuries, from the start of the marathon build up in July, I was having issues with my groin. By September the pain was bad enough that running the marathon was no longer plausible, and I figured all I would need was a few weeks rest to heal things up. I was wrong there! After nearly two months of cross training, physiotherapy, and not getting any better, it was determined that one of my legs was 1.8cm longer than the other. This is significant enough that over time, the compensations that my body makes for this discrepancy became too much, which led to the strain on my groin muscles. I got orthotics to fix the problem, as well as some treatment to relieve the tension in my muscles. This allowed me to build up mileage for about 5 weeks. Although I wasn’t feeling 100% healthy, I was feeling healthy enough to at least attempt a build up to run Around the Bay again.  In early February, I experienced pain in my back which after a week of not going away and getting worse, I was forced to stop running entirely once again. So I wont be running Around the Bay, and I won’t make any plans to run competitively again until my body lets me.
 I often mutter to myself why would God lead me to Guelph only to break my two different places? I don’t know a definite answer to that question, but I think there are three most likely reasons of why disappointments like this happen. God is testing me, God is disciplining me, God is leading me somewhere else. A fourth reason I  can think of is simply that we live in an imperfect world, we are all going to have to perservere through certain trials regardless of whether it is our fault or not. The true reason may very well be a combination of all these things...I don’t claim to be wise enough to know, it is very hard for me to understand.

God could be testing me like he did in the book of Job.  For those unfamiliar with the story, the book begins with God having a discussion with Satan about a righteous man named Job. Satan argues that the only reason Job is righteous is because he has been blessed so greatly. If those blessings were destroyed, Satan predicted that Job would curse God. So God allowed Satan to take away his possessions, family, and health. The rest of the book is filled with dialogue between Job and his ‘friends’ who try to explain that God is punishing Job for something. Not until the last few chapters does God finally speak to Job, and the book ends with Job receiving even more than he had before. Is it possible that Satan read my blog last June when everything was going great and had a similar discussion with God? I’t might be. If anything, the book of Job serves as an important reminder to trust God and worship him even in the tough times. I believe it is okay to ask questions to God and vent our frustrations in prayer and still be considered righteous. After all, Job did these things, and he was still considered righteous. One example of Job’s questions that I can relate to is in Job 13:23-25. In these verses, he asks God to show him if there is anything he has done wrong. Why would a loving God punish someone without giving an explanation for the punishment? I have asked God that too.

 I prayed a few months ago that if there is any area in particular that God wants to see significant change in me that he reveal it to me.  Sometimes this is the case, and it might be that God is allowing hardship in order to reduce a negative quality or increase a positive one. After all, the bible does say the God disciplines those that he loves.  It says this shortly after the running the race analogy in Hebrews 12. I do feel as if the Lord did show me something back in January that needed work. Looking back at the year of 2013, I was fortunate enough to have some support in terms of new balance shoes, gear, and a certain number of physio treatments. Not having to pay for those things was a huge blessing, but it made me susceptible to a  selfish and entitled attitude. I was seen as a young, up and coming runner who had some success in road races. My best race in 2012 was a 30k in 1:35, and that is an equivalent performance similar to others in the group with the same support level as me, to the best of my knowledge. Come to think of it, I was probably the least accomplished runner that received support, but a year of training with the top distance group in Canada should produce a breakthrough year, and hopefully a strong marathon debut. The first half of the year went well, but the second half was filled with injury.  I realized that my support would probably be reduced for this year, not just because of my injury, but because a lot of athletes had breakthrough years, and they are much more deserving of support than me.  But ultimately that is a decision left up to the coaches of Speed River, so I expected them to let me know. This year they changed the tier/support system, so they had a meeting to discuss these changes in January. The meeting left me with a lot of questions unanswered. I was still unsure if I would receive any type of support, or if I would be completely on my own for running expenses(shoes and physio are the big two) in addition to the club membership fee. I was extremely grateful for that support in 2013, but if I would no longer be receiving it, that is a big change, and it would be tough for me to rationalize committing to stay in Guelph, now that I graduated and trying to figure out what to do next. I also think it is wisest to return to race shape at my own pace coming back from a lengthly injury. It is only when I am healthy that I can benefit from being part of a strong training group like Speed River. Is it possible that my membership fee can be pro-rated? Can they take a portion of my prize money instead? Those questions seemed logical to me, so I decided to meet with Dave Scott Thomas to address these questions. Unfortunately, this was interpreted by Chris Moulton and Dave as I am just trying to use Speed River and see how much I can get out of the group. So Dave sat me down with Chris, and it was suggested that if I am making my decision whether to stay with Speed River based on whether or not I receive support, I’m in it for the wrong reasons, and I should get out. Now, obviously, I don’t run because I want to get material possessions. That would be ridiculous! If I was motivated by those things, I wouldn’t waste time running 100+ mile weeks, I can guarantee you that. It is true though, that I am an extremely frugal person and I do like to calculate those factors. What I did take away from what they said is that I need to work on being less of a self centered person...only concerned about take, take, take, without giving back anything in return. Also, although I thank God for his blessings, it’s also important to making an intentional effort to show my thankfulness to people that God has used to bless me. After this meeting with the coaches, I was deeply troubled the most because if I claim to be a Christian and write blogs about it, and I’m interpreted by coaches as selfish and ungrateful, I am being a terrible witness, and I’m being a phony Christian. That is a serious issue. Dave does know me enough to understand that because of my mathematical mind, I make decisions based on reason and calculations, but he showed concern that I didn’t seem to put value on coaching and being part of the Speed River community. In reality, those things are important to me. Speed River is an awesome group. I have gotten to know some athletes, many whom have performed on the world stage, and they are also great personalities and humble about their accomplishments as well. I wish I could have gotten to know these people and train with them more, but injuries have prevented that. It has frustrated me incredibly that I couldn’t take advantage of such an awesome opportunity. I could try to stay here in Guelph and wait patiently for my injury to heal, and take on a part time job to pay the bills, even if it is something mundane and not in my field. I have considered that. There are also negative emotions that also play a roll in my decision.  There is negative emotional effect of losing support and not being considered a tiered athlete anymore. There is also a loss of passion that comes with being injured for so long. I’m in a tough situation, and to say that I was making a decision purely based on material support is a bit unfair, although I can understand where Dave and Chris are coming from as coaches of Speed River, and I can learn from the situation. Regardless of whether I will be part of Speed River in the future, the more important matter is the matter of my heart, and I have asked God to work in my heart show me ways to be less focused on my self and to focus more on  showing gratitude to those who help me and service to those who could use my help. I’m not very good at being able to see these things, so I hope God will show me how to improve in this.

Could all these unfortunate events be God’s way of telling me that Guelph is not where he wants me to be at least for the next year or two? Does he have something better in store for me? This is another possible explanation. I recently graduated with my Master’s, and I’m at a point where I’m trying to figure out what to do next. I hoped to find a sessional teaching position for an introductory statistics or math class, but those positions are hard to get. I don’t think research is for me, so I don’t want to start a PhD, but I do want to teach. I recently applied to teacher’s college, and since Guelph doesn’t have teacher’s college, I’d have to move elsewhere. Western and Windsor were still accepting applications when I decided this, so those are the two schools that I applied for. I know teaching jobs are tough to get right now, but they are switching the program to 2 years next year, so if I get in, I would only have to do 1 year.  So it would be a huge plus to get in this year rather than next year. Maybe God is leading me down that path instead. It’s tough to know what will happen though, and I have to be open to many possibilities. I just hope something works out for me, so I have something to keep me from insanity when I’m not able to run.

The other explanation is to just say that this world isn’t perfect, and there is going to be points in everyone’s life where multiple things go wrong or uncertain all at once. It’s important to be patient and persevere through these times, and hopefully come out a stronger person. Any competitive runner will experience injury troubles at certain points in their career, and if you don’t, I think I can speak for a lot of runners when I say that I envy you. It stinks that there are other uncertainties going on at the same time for me, but its a possibility that I have to be prepared for.

I’m not looking for sympathy or anything like that for writing this entry. I was really hesitant to write this post for the reason of coming across that way. But I think it is important that I let people know what is going on in my life who want to know and might’ve wondered what the heck happened to that Around the Bay winner from last year. I also think its important to share our experiences, and it may be that someone else is going through a similar struggle and may be encouraged that they are not alone. Who knows? I hope that what I write might benefit somebody. It would be easy for me to blame God for bringing me to Guelph and allowing brief success but only to bring me down. But then I would forget all the blessings he has and continues to show me. Family and friends are a big one that is easy to take for granted. Also I don’t have student debt because of the scholarships I received at Campbell and the GTA/GRA funding I received at Guelph.  (It also helps that I’m really frugal !) That’s a burden that a lot of people in my situation might also have on their back, but for me I don’t have that. So if I look at what to be thankful for rather than what to complain about, that can help too. Through everything I trust that God is in control, and that despite my shortcomings, he will provide for me, and show me where I can go next to best serve him. 

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