Running Barefoot in the Cold, Cold Rain

Running Barefoot in the Cold, Cold Rain

Well, it wasn’t real rain the way I understood it—more like a steady drizzle. But it was cold. A woman I met from Wisconsin who had been transplanted to Texas once said that Houston was the coldest place she had ever been: Up north it can snow a lot, and the temperature can drop below zero, but the humidity was low and you could always add more layers. On the Gulf Coast, it could drizzle for much of the winter, with temperatures in the upper thirties and humidity close to 100%. And there’s not a lot you can do to keep out the chill.

I had had a serious cough for several weeks, approximately since the semester had begun. I was living off campus in a cozy apartment in a pleasant neighborhood. The apartment was warm and dry. But I coughed continually, day and night. The infection and the subsequent lack of sleep were pulling me down pretty quickly at that point. It was my final semester as an undergraduate. I despaired of finishing all I had to do, since I was taking 21 hours (not because I was a super scholar but because I had gotten extensions in two courses for which I still hadn’t written the papers). And as sick as I was, I accomplished little when I could get up the energy to open a book. Graduation seemed a distant possibility.

I was in my usual “uniform,” made possible because the second-floor apartment was always comfortably warm: cut-off jean shorts, a sweatshirt, and barefoot.

I was passing through the dining room when words intruded abruptly and unexpectedly into my consciousness: “Would you like to be healed?”

It was an unheard “voice” I had experienced a number of times before.

“Yes!” I responded.

“Good. Then I want you to go outside right now, dressed as you are, and run a mile.”

(Background: I regularly jogged in those days, and had measured various distances with my car’s odometer, so I knew pretty closely how to trace a one-mile route. Also: since it was a nice neighborhood, and since it was Houston, virtually everyone had lush grass in their lawns, so I regularly ran barefooted—and my feet were tough anyway, so running on asphalt streets was no problem.)

It was a problem, however, that I had a serious lower respiratory infection, and it was in the upper 30s, and it was drizzling, and I quickly figured out that I literally could “catch my death of cold,” as the cliché goes, by running barefooted and bare-legged and without adequate clothing on top.

And I was well aware then, as I remain aware today, that things I supposedly “hear” from the Holy Spirit are not always from the Holy Spirit. I was pretty much frozen in place for a minute or two. I asked God to make the “feeling” (or whatever the appropriate term is) grow stronger if that was really him, and to make the opposite happen if it wasn’t. It grew much stronger.

Still, I hesitated: “You realize I could die from pneumonia?”

“Do you trust me?” came a further challenge. (I did not fail to notice that he hadn’t answered my question—an annoying tendency that, at least in my experience, has characterized this relationship from the beginning!)

God, I trusted. My ability to discern God’s voice? Not so much. I had met him only about 16 months earlier. I had just begun learning how to discern his voice (and I’m still learning!) among the myriad other voices that appeared in my head (90% simply my own thoughts, of course). I had learned, however, that the only way to grow in my ability to identify his voice was (1) to become as sure as possible that something was from God, and then (2) to act on it. If I was hearing correctly, it would notch up my accuracy percentage a tiny bit. If I learned it wasn’t God and it was my own thoughts (or thoughts introduced by other spiritual forces), then that also would be informative. It was a very gradual process that I’m still exploring, and will till I die.

I knew I needed to obey. And yes, I trusted God absolutely—even believing firmly that, if I thought this was God and it wasn’t, and even if I became sicker and died, he would nevertheless bless me because I was stepping out (literally in this case!) in faith. Which meant, of course, that I could trust him whether or not I was “hearing” correctly.

So I coughed my way downstairs, stepped out into the nasty Houston drizzle and the frigid air, and started running. And coughing.

There’s no reason to draw out the story for dramatic purposes. By the time I returned to my apartment after running a mile in the cold drizzle, scantily clothed and barefoot, completely soaked, the cough was completely gone. Permanently gone.

End of story.