Morning Grit; Evening Grace

Today has been a day of contrasts! One might say “Morning Grit” and “Evening Grace,” to adapt a phrase I recently heard from a friend. I started out the day by waking up early and driving an hour north of Kent to the woods of Lake County. I had signed myself up for a half-marathon on the trails because I wanted to complete my application for membership in the Half-Marathon of the Month Club. A fun little project, right? Except for the fact that the weather can be very unpredictable in February in Northeast Ohio. Especially up by Lake Erie!

So, as I drove north I started feeling some anxiety about the trail conditions. We had maybe a quarter-inch of ice coat everything two nights ago. Then we had about four inches of fresh snowfall last night. The roads were drivable, but not great. The trails, though, were unplowed. They featured a lot of hills and rivers and marshy meadows. And the race organizers seemed to actually revel in the gritty conditions, considering the fact that they named their race the Olde Girdled Grit. “What have I gotten myself into?!?” I wondered, as I got closer and closer to the starting line.

Fortunately, the running ended up being more manageable than I expected. And the scenery throughout the Girdled Road Reservation was stunning! Every tree branch, down to the smallest twig, was outlined in white. Waterfalls on the river steamed in the cold morning air. Brilliant sunshine mixed with snow falling from the trees, sparkling like glitter on the way down. It was very beautiful!

But it was also very hard. The descent down into the hollows and river gorges were harrowing. (In fact, I slipped and fell several times). And the ascents coming back out of those same hollows and river gorges were heart-breaking. I ended up running at a pretty aggressive pace — which makes me proud now, in retrospect — but which also made me tired, while I was running. Even with the challenges, though, I appreciated the opportunity to develop and demonstrate greater grit. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve appreciated this element of character. We can’t sidestep adversity, but we can overcome a surprising amount of adversity through gritty, gutsy, scrappy perseverance.

And the Olde Girdled Grit was a fantastic place to practice good old-fashioned grit.

All of my slipping and falling, all the elevation changes, and all the mileage added up to a whopping 152 Bad Asp Points for this morning’s run. But I didn’t get injured. And even though I know it’s not everybody’s idea of “fun,” I actually and truly had fun. It felt like a gift: a perfect way to celebrate my 45th birthday.

Birthday Dinner at Edwin's Restaurant

But life is not all grit. There’s also grace. God blesses us even when we don’t deserve it. Even when we haven’t worked for it. Jesus welcomes us to His Banquet Table purely based on who accepts His invitation. And after an afternoon of showering, shaving, eating, resting, and responding to birthday messages from friends and family, Marci and I got gussied up for a fancy night in Cleveland.

Birthday Dinner at Edwin's Restaurant

The night out was Marci’s birthday gift to me: an experience instead of an item. So, we went to one of the top-rated restaurants in Cleveland: Edwins, on Shaker Square. It’s fine French dining, with an intriguing emphasis on social entrepreneurship. And it really was an experience.

Birthday Dinner at Edwin's Restaurant

This was the kind of place where the wait staff re-folds your napkin for you, if you get up from the table. Our water glasses and bread plates were regularly refilled before we even noticed they needed to be topped up. We ordered escargots and Calvados and soufflĂ© (things that we’d never order under normal circumstances). Furthermore, I got to enjoy it all with my beautiful, charming, graceful wife.

So, I got the morning grit and evening grace. The reminder that growing older requires both perseverance and patience. It was a great way to celebrate my birthday. And I’m glad to be starting a new year of life.

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