Embracing the Struggle

by Heather Kampf

Not just any body can do what mine has done.
Run a half mile in 2 minutes flat
Run a full mile under 4:20
Won MN State High School Titles,
Big Ten Titles,
An NCAA Title,
US National Titles,
1st prize in hand stand and hula hoop contests,
And a fair amount of victories in impromptu footraces between myself and my marathoner husband.
It’s not just an object to be viewed and accessorized,
My body is a tool and a vehicle to be utilized.
It has taken me to Shanghai, Oslo, Rome, Lucerne, Maui, and NYC, just to name a few.
It earned me a college scholarship, it’s paid my bills.
Through my body and my sport I met the love of my life, my best friends, and find myself belonging to an incredible community.

My body has been a great source of my self-confidence…it has shown me that all things are possible.
I saw my body as an extension of who I am- strong, dynamic, capable, trustworthy, powerful, steadfast…a force.
It is an asset and a gift, and as such, I have done everything I can to care for it and protect it.
I’ve nourished it- I love food, not just as fuel but for the simple enjoyment of it and the way it brings people together.
I’ve embraced rest, recovery, balance, and respected limits.
Even as a competitor,
I’ve followed the rules for how to become
The best-
The “right way”.
Because I want to continue to love my body long after my competitive days are over.

As tears streamed down my face,
I sang “it is well with my soul”
this morning at church.

Actually praying for God to
please help make it okay with my soul.
Because to be perfectly honest I’m not sure if I’m really there yet.

I was confused and devastated last spring when I got a sacral stress fracture on my right side- but I could maybe explain it away because of a freak, hard, fall on the ice. And I came back strong so I put it behind me, hungry for better things ahead.

I was shocked and embarrassed to learn I had a sacral stress reaction on my left this past December. (I’m ashamed to say I used to think the only people who got repetitive stress injuries were under-eaters, over-trainers, and people who didn’t respect their bodies….but I’ve learned that judgement was completely wrong and unfair, and I’m sorry.) After all the hours of PT, it seemed my body had ‘passed the buck’ from right to left. I didn’t even want to tell people about it because I felt like it was confirming a new narrative that I was uncomfortable with, that my body was actually fragile, and as such, I was too.

I’m numb, and utterly at a loss that now,
my left sacrum is showing signs of stress reaction again,
and I will be taking even more time away from what I love…in order to get back to what I love.

It breaks my heart that my body seems to be failing me. I’m more than just a little disappointed I will be missing some of my favorite races again this year, to be missing long runs and workouts with my teammates, to miss the freedom of moving fast with little effort that comes from the building, week-after-week of steady training.

Despite this unfortunate cycle, I am holding fast to my faith that this is still what I am made to do, and nothing is too broken for Him to repair.
I don’t have to view my body as fragile,
just human.

And perhaps rather than clinging to the idea that I myself am powerful because of the physical gifts I have been given, I can embrace the idea that the power in every great story lives in the struggle. Few of us relate to stories of effortless success…we connect with the difficult journeys.

And so, since my married name Kampf
literally translates to struggle,
I choose to embrace it.
Struggle is my name and resilience is my game.

It’s the only way I know how
To make it well with my soul.
To honor my God and my Gift.
To give him all the power and glory.

Because His body is the living bread,
And THAT is not just any body.

John 6:51

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