Oh, the water; Oh, the water; Oh, the water

Hope it don’t rain all day

And it stoned me to my soul

Stoned me just like Jelly Roll

And it stoned me

And it stoned me to my soul

Stoned me just like goin’ home

And it stoned me

–Van Morrison

The dread. I looked out the window, as I had all morning and the rain was still coming down. Hard. Sunday is the day on my plan that calls for a long run and my schedule tomorrow did not allow for a postponement. I had been checking the sky and the Nexrad radar all morning to see if it would break. By 1 o’clock in the afternoon it became clear to me that it wouldn’t stop.

So a decision faced me square, raised its head, looked me in the eye and asked the question. Will you run today or not?

I used to be a runner. I remember the days, just a few years ago, in which I would run for hours on the trails and among the expansive woods that surround my house. When I say I used to be a runner, you have to have been a runner to know what I mean. When you are a runner, running is as close to heaven as you are likely to find on this earth. When every part of your body works in perfect harmony to propel you forward and to give you joy.

Your lungs, your heart, your legs, and even your sweat glands all doing what the things for which they are designed. Separate. Together. All in perfect harmony. You hear the birds chirp and feel a slight gust of wind as the ground slips beneath your feet. You don’t think about running when you are a runner any more than a bird thinks about flying, its just who you are and what you do. On a day like that, I don’t know how any rational being could be an atheist, God seems everywhere.

But these are all memories to me now of how things used to be. Five years ago I gave it up for all the same ‘practical’ reasons that people don’t go Church. Too busy. Other priorities. What am I really getting out it? Blah. So now the memories of God seeming to be everywhere are just that, memories. It is easy, sometimes, to convince myself that it was never really that good. Not really.

A few months ago I took up running again, but it seemed that my former lover would not forgive or forget my abandonment. Each and every run for the last several months has been an ache filled slog as far from joy as hell is from heaven.

I looked out the window and the rain continued to pour down, running in rivers on the side of the street. Thirteen miles in this? That’s crazy, I thought. I dreaded it.

But I put on my shoes and my hat. My wife asked me as I headed out the door, “Can’t you just skip it today?”

“No. Not today.”

And so I headed out into the rain which, for the first few miles, alternated between drizzle and light rain. And then the sky opened up. Rain poured down by the bucketful. The sides of the roads were rivers. I ran a serpentine path down the middle of the street trying to find the highest point between the cambers in order to avoid the deepest puddles. Sometimes there was no camber to be found and I ran through puddles that increasing resembled ponds and lakes.

And the rain poured and the miles went by. And then I noticed something. Actually, I not noticed something. Me. And it stoned me to my soul.

As the rain washed over me, I felt a baptism of sorts. The rain, it seemed to me, had washed away the sin of abandonment. The purgatorial slog was gone. My legs turned over without me willing them to do so. I just ran and it felt good. I was happy. The joy was back. My sins had been forgiven and God once again seemed everywhere. I had been welcomed back.

The rain continued to wash over me and each drop and each mile seemed to say ‘Let us have a feast. This brother of ours was lost and has been found. We must welcome him back. A runner.”