Monika Korra is currently the Norwegian Junior National cross country ski coach. As a sophomore cross country runner at SMU in Texas in 2009, she was raped while coming home from a party. Her story of the events and her recovery and victory our outlined in the narrative, Kill the Silence, which was published in 2015. This is part 2 of my reflections on poignant excerpts from this text.
Page 98-99 (This comes after Korra attempts to go on a run and only makes it 15 minutes, a result of the cumulative fatigue from medication, stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep. The realization of a different type of obstacle(s) is laid out):
My whole life was taken up with being a runner, and as great as it was to self-identify as someone who was disciplined, goal-oriented, and all the rest, I was frightened by the thought that I might have to give up the rest of it as well – the routine, the camaraderie, the sense of purpose and place and reason for being that had accumulated over time.
I was used to fighting against fatigue, distraction, temptation, and soreness to go on a run or do some other kind of workout. ….I felt as though my identity was shifting beneath my feet, and I felt powerless against the forces that were tyring to reshape me.
Much of that had to do with confidence and control. I’d pushed my body through all kinds of walls before to find another burst of energy to go longer and faster…..We (as athletes) were the ones in control, we still determined what all our boundaries were. After the rape, that loss of control, that feeling that someone else could step beyond my boundaries, push me to do things I didn’t want to do at all, altered my perceptions immeasurably.
….For the first time in a very, very long time, maybe for the first time every, a dreaded though too hold: What if effort didn’t matter. What if no matter how hard you worked or tried, or how meticulously you scheduled and planned, things beyond your control could happen and ruin everything you’d hoped for and dreamed and planned?What if I’d been fooling myself all along and being in control was really something freakish, absurd, something I’d just imagined, something horrific and horrible and not helpful.
The two major issues to dissect from this excerpt are identity and control. It is fascinating for me as a reader to hop inside the mind of someone else who, while sharing a few of the same lenses as me (distance runner, type A academically, combination introvert and extrovert, loving and supporting family), might not be wearing the same glasses frame when it comes to world view (in other words, I don’t think Korra’s ultimate authority, at least at this stage in her life, is the Bible). It is this truth that becomes evident as she ponders her identity and control (or lack thereof).
Many dedicated and driven athletes end up in a place where their identity and sense of purpose and value to the world is wrapped up in their sport in some capacity, whether it is the literal trophies and successes they earn from them, the body image they develop them, or the sense of belonging or people they meet through them. When this is taken away, from losing, injury, or removal from a team, that is the low moment where an athlete ends up finally coming to grip with this problem. And it is a problem. Your identity can’t be placed in sports. In fact, it can’t be placed in anything that is on this earth. Because, in the end, those things burn. They don’t, as Ephesians says, become refined in the fire. If you have put your identity in your job, that is bound to be empty. In your family, the kids you have, or the home you’ve built….not going to work either.
The only thing we should place our identity in is something the person who is sovereign over all and created everything has given to us: an identity of being a sanctified and saved member of God’s family by the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. When we turn our life over to God, no matter what is going on in our lives and on the earth, when we look at the ultimate judge – the only person whose judgement is going to mean anything in the end anyone – and ask, “Who am I?” we get the answer, “I child of God.” Without that, how can you possibly even dare to ever ask that question. It terrifies me to think about living each day without that security. Think about it. If you ask that question, “Who am I,” and answer: “The greatest quarterback in NFL history,” or “the best distance runner in the world,” you have two choices: continue to sustain that level of “performance,” (and believe that, even if you can, it even MATTERS!) or lose… your identity.
Now, I’m a Christian, and I hold to the truth of the Bible, and I believe my identity is in what Jesus has done for me, not anything I perceive to be what I have done here on earth, but again, actually walking with that confidence is a lifelong struggle. So to read about someone else coming to the realization of this, albiet from a different way – in this case, Korra’s athletics and sense of control and identity being wrapped together with it were seemingly being torn from her as a result of being raped – was interesting, and I think comforting. Other athletes think about this, and they don’t all think about it when they are injured and CAN’T run or compete, which has been the times where I have dwelt on it.
I think it is interesting how Korra moves right into the next issue of control. They are connected. Up to this point, her identity has been something she CAN control – or at least she has perceived at that way. Running has been her identity, and getting better at running has been something she has had control over. Unfortunately, her fear – that maybe EVERYTHING is beyond her control – is a total TRUTH.
Nothing was ever in her control. Even those moments she references in workouts where she pushed herself to one more rep and got better. She is right in saying that her coaches didn’t enable or make her do that. It was her decision. But even the ability to make that decision, even the ability to have her heart beat, to blink her eyes, to have her body function as it ‘should’ is not something she has any control over.
We live in a world today where we are completely dull to the amazing hand God has on ….well, everything.
Things as basic as a sunrise, our pulse, or the ability to swallow are more viewed like ‘rights.’ We don’t stop and recognize that God is sovereign over those things, too. With that in mind, it is easy to see how we as a world can start to think that things like that promotion at work, the two-year old twins we are raising, or actions as we drive to the grocery store are things ‘we have control over’ or ‘decided’ or ‘earned.’ I know most people think that, but I have to say, they are just in for a rude awakening, to be honest, when they realize it simply isn’t true. I hope and pray those who are lost in this way can find the truly comforting knowledge that NO we DON’T have control over ANYTHING and thank goodness for it…Instead, we have an omnipotent, perfect God who created everything, has all power and authority, to ‘run’ the world how he sees fit. Oh and by the way He loves us….so He actually wants what is best for us — phew I should throw that in their — it isn’t like we have a cruel dictator god.
While, I sort of went down a preaching road with this post. Sorry if that turned you away and you couldn’t finish it. I guess I couldn’t control that to begin with anyway.
Editor’s note: This was sitting in the ‘drafts’ area of my site collecting dust. I’m going to post as is and hope it impacts someone’s life in a positive way!