Yesterday afternoon, I went for a run on my own. I had decided that I would head over the Wearmouth Bridge, dropping down to run along the river, past the Queen Alexandra Bridge and on as far as the Northern Spire Bridge, cross back to the south side of the river and back as far as the Queen Alex, then home along the cycle path.
It was warmer than I had anticipated, and harder going. At the Alex, I reassessed, cutting the third bridge from my route. Even then, I had to drop to a walk climbing up from the riverbank and crossing the bridge (the light and dark blue sections on the map). I was dehydrated, and had pushed too hard, and my Achilles is telling me so this morning.
Running often brings me closer to God, and to myself. The word ‘soul’ means breath, our life-breath. Jesus said,
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:38-30)
There is, in these short verses, a beautiful invitation, to bring our heart (our capacity to make choices) and soul (our breath, which sometimes becomes laboured) and mind (our capacity to think, and feel, to learn experientially) and strength (our capacity to act, which grows weary over time and needs to be refreshed) together, into harmony, into rest. To move in God’s unforced power (that’s what ‘gentleness’ is getting at) recognising our dependence on God (this is what ‘humility’ means).
We discover in the Gospels that God moves at walking pace, at 3 miles an hour. At a pace where the breath is not laboured. Which is not to deny the place of effort, or the joy at the fruit of our labours that follows physically demanding activity; but to return, again and again, to a lightness of breath, a soul at peace with herself and the world.