“You run like a duck.”
I was ten years old on my school soccer field when a girl told me this. I don’t know if she meant the words to be mean, but my cheeks burned with heat.
The kid laughed as she said it, after she’d seen me run across the field trying to keep up in a game the other kids were playing. I can’t remember her name or her face, but I remember her words. Even then I was self-deprecating, laughing along with her, shrugging it off with something like, “That’s me. A duck.”
But the words sunk like a rock into the pit of my stomach and shame crept its way into my body. I knew then: I couldn’t run again. I couldn’t risk embarrassing myself.
I blamed my parents for not enrolling me in sports teams as a child. I blamed God for making me more artistic than athletic. I blamed my body for being awkward and slow rather than smooth and quick like the bodies I saw around me.
For years I was self-conscious about the way I moved. I remember sitting at the very back of dance class in musical theatre camp, terrified of the possibility that other kids might see me dance. And years later, at my gym, I always tried to rearrange myself to look better on the elliptical machine. No matter how I moved my body, I’d remember those words a middle school kid once said to me.
But then this year, seventeen years later, I felt something I hadn’t in a long time: I wanted to run.
Sometimes it takes doing the very thing you swore you’d never do to hear the unfamiliar song of freedom and feel the shackles fall from your feet. A few weeks ago, I loaded my phone with worship music, stuck my earbuds in, found a trail and . . . ran. I ran like I’d never run before.
No one was with me, save for the breeze and the butterflies and the birds chirping. Sweat dripped down my face and beaded along my back, and my heart pounded hard and fast. I wasn’t good at it. I was doubled over after two minutes, panting and sweating and red-faced.
But I was running again. And the biggest difference? I wasn’t afraid anymore.
I could feel my sore legs as I took more and more steps, and instead of wishing I looked or moved differently, I said out loud to God, “You made me! You created this body in Your good image, and I can run and dance and worship You with it!”
At the end of that run, I placed my hand against my heart and felt it drumming within my chest. The breeze cooled my hot face, and I found a bench to rest. I sat cross-legged, in the presence of God. With that run, I had chosen to claim my freedom — perhaps more accurately, to re-claim my freedom.
Jesus freed me a long time ago, when He died and took all of my sin onto His very body. But I don’t always live in the freedom He died — and conquered death — to give me. Sometimes, instead, I choose to believe the words people have spoken over me — allowing those words to form my identity, instead of choosing to believe who God says I am.
Now, every time I lace up my runners, I lace them in defiance against the lies I believed. Every time I step my foot onto that beaten path, I step out in defiance against the words once spoken to me. Every time I run, I worship.
I probably won’t win any races (or even enter them). I probably won’t run a 5k or a marathon. Honestly, I don’t even know if I’ll ever be a good runner. But that’s not the point. I’m choosing to run again, not to be fast or to get fit but because God has made me free. And each time I run, I’m choosing to reclaim that freedom.
Whatever words someone spoke over you — seventeen years ago or maybe yesterday — don’t need to have power anymore. Your identity is formed by who God says you are — and you are made in His good image. The song of freedom is playing, and the shackles are ready to fall from your feet. Jesus has freed you. You are free.
So lace up your runners, take a step on a beaten path, and run in the freedom God has for you. Your legs might burn, and the sweat might fall . . . but your freedom? It’s worth reclaiming.
Ruth Mills says
I think more often than not the things that shackle us are more subtle than a specific remark or event. The remedy for both is the same. Looking to Jesus & believing what He says about us not the negative self-talk or comments from onlookers. May we all learn to “run” with joy! Thank you for sharing!
Aliza Latta says
I think you’re absolutely right, Ruth. Thank you!!
I grew up believing I was not enough. No matter what I did or accomplished I was compared and reminded someone else could do it better. Those words “not enough” were branded in my mind.
Aliza Latta says
I am so sorry, Carol. I am praying Jesus begins to heal you from the lies that were spoken over you. I have a list of truths I read over myself each morning, and it’s been incredibly healing and a way to combat lies with the truth. I remind myself of who I truly am… that I am loved by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, a child of God, forgiven for all I have done, made on purpose for a purpose, brand new… I wonder if an exercise like that might be healing for you as well. Much love to you!
Joy Weir says
I was part of a children’s choir when I was 14. One day during practice, the director said in front of everyone that my voice was off. To this day, I remember the shame I felt. In the past few years, I’ve started singing again; in the car, at home, at work…. My singing has become a source of worship, prayer, and longing through a very difficult time over the last 2 years. Thank you for sharing your story!
Aliza Latta says
Joy, I love how you have started to sing again! Praise God. Thank you for sharing!
I cried as I read this. I have hated myself for years having let negative comments from others sit in my head. Thank you for reminding me of the freedom I have in Jesus, that His love is bigger than any negative comment.
Aliza Latta says
Yes, Rebecca – you have freedom in Jesus, my friend! I’m going to tell you what I told Carol above, but I wonder if reciting truths each morning might be healing for you. I remind myself each morning of my true identity… that I am loved by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, a child of God, forgiven for all I have done, made on purpose for a purpose, brand new… and it has been so helpful to get those truths DEEP into me. I am praying for you, friend.
I love this entire concept. I also believe it pertains to the shame we carry when we were the ones who spoke out of our own pain and insecurities. Christ frees us from the shame when our hearts condemns us. Grace frees us. Repentance to the Lord and to the offended are necessary and we must be stripped of all pride to be able to find that full freedom in God’s grace!
Aliza Latta says
That is such great perspective, Jeanna. I hadn’t thought of that, but I think you are totally right. Grace frees us… and I’m so grateful to God for that.
Oh how I wish I didn’t relate but I do. There have been 3 comments that cut me to the core and even now, at age 67, when I read this post, they came right to my mind. As a young child, when I was learning to tell time, my paternal grandfather who was less than kind, asked the time during a family gathering. I was so excited I said I knew how to tell time but my answer wrong and he called me stupid in front of the whole family. Thank goodness for my mother who rescued me. My response was to earn not only a BA, but I have 2 masters and certifications in other areas. Then at 13, I was asked to leave choir. I admit I have a less than melodic voice. I would not sing in front of anyone for the longest time. And then the babies came and the nursery songs and what choice did I have. And I thought, God gave me this voice so I am going to sing it loud! And then at 19, at a friends wedding with my boyfriend, her 5 year old niece announced I was ugly in front of other guests. That one comment was the hardest to get past. And to be honest, there are days I look into the mirror and cringe. And again, I remember I made in the image and likeness of our Creator. But those doubts are always so close to the surface.
Aliza Latta says
Madeline – I am so deeply sorry. I am so grateful for how you recall how you were made. You are deeply loved!
This is amazing. Thank you for sharing! Have you heard of Alisa Keeton or her ministry, Revelation Wellness? She does a workout podcast called The Revelation Wellness Podcast (Revving the Word) and it is amazing. It’s all about finding your freedom in Christ in the good body God has made you. It’s all I ever listen to now when I run or workout. It has helped me realize the truth that my worth and identity is rooted in Jesus as a daughter of God, not what I look like, how fast I can run, how heavy I can lift, not what the world has said about me. It is amazing and I highly recommend checking it out! God bless you!
Aliza Latta says
Thank you so much, Anne! I definitely will check her out.
Beth Williams says
I was born with two punctured ear drums. Couldn’t hear & didn’t speak till almost 3 years old. Had to take speech classes in HS to help me improve. All that made me super shy. Kept wishing I could speak better. Three surgeries & 1 ear fixed. Interim I got a hearing aid to help out. That made life more tolerable. Years later God has healed both ears. I am now doing sign language to music in front of my small church. I realize that there are many people out there with disabilities who don’t let that slow them down or keep them from doing what they want. I even made a video for Relay for Life (Cancer). Stepping way out of my comfort zone to shine God’s light & love in this world. Disability & words spoken over you don’t define you. God does!
Aliza Latta says
You are amazing, Beth!
Once long ago a principal told me I was the reason students were leading our school. I knew intellectually this was not true and that she was going through some issues of her own. I continue to teach, and work with children. However, sometimes it still comes back to me when things aren’t going well. I need to remember that God is always with me and frees me. Please pray for me. Thank you.
I meant to say leaving the school. Jane
Jennifer Haynie says
I can relate! I never learned to run, and I hated every minute when I did. Until I turned 35. Under the kindness of my husband, I took that chance again. I’m not the fastest or have the best gait, and I’m certainly not going to win my class in a 5k or 10k, but I do it because it honors God to take care of myself. And to celebrate my 50th birthday, I’ve entered a half marathon.
Good for you for running! Keep up, and I’ll be that you can run a 5k or 10k.
And thank you for your encouragement. It’s amazing how words spoken during those junior high years can impact us.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Aliza I can remember being in School my parents sent me to. They mean well. As they took me out of another school at p5. Sent me to this schedule for p6 and p7. Last two years of Primary School. They thought my parents this school with smaller classes and less people in would do me the world of good. But I never liked the school. I one day in the classroom. Didn’t want to join in the so called game in the class that day they were playing. So someone called me Fergie Fungus. Or something along those lines. I can’t remember the exact name. But it hurt down so deep. I wanted to cry that day. I can remember they all most of them if not all of them. Said the name to me. Then don’t go near her. Because they said that because of the name they had called me. That if you do you will catch what that name is that they called me. I didn’t know what to do then. I sat in class scared all those years ago. I never like going to that school. I don’t remember when I told my parents about this our how they found out. But I do remember that my Dad went to see the Headmaster. He just said kids will be kids. Something along those lines. So nothing was done about it. I am glad my Mum stuck up for me as there was. A Grammar School attached to this school. I was due to go to as I called it big school. My Dad wanted me to go to the Grammar part of it. My late Mum stuck up for me. Said no. I taking her away. To send her to ordinary Secondary School. There I made Friends. As the so called friends I had at that school for the last to years of Primary. Were not really Friendly to me. One would boss me. The other she say nothing. So I was thankful me to my late Mum for taking me out of the School and not sending me to Grammar in. But it did take years and years for me. Even saved to get over it. What had happened to me in that school. Kids or Adults words can hurt. Like it did you Aliza. But with help when God took me out of the Church I was going too. Sent me to the Salvation Army. The same Officers we have today. The woman Officer. In our Salvation Army. Was so kind. She came to my house. With my Husband beside me. Gave me help I so badly needed. She the Woman Salvation Army Officer. Said to me one day Dawn you have to Forgive them. She helped me be able to pray for them and Forgive them. It was not easy but I knew I had to for my life too change. Then she said to me Dawn you remember you are a Daughter of the king. That king is Jesus. You she gave me a task. I want you to look in your bedroom mirror and say. Dawn is beautiful. Then say in Jesus I am beautiful. Then she said Dawn don’t ever worry about what the world says or thinks of you. What only matters is what Jesus thinks of you. Jesus love you Dawn. I did cry at that. Then on Sunday morning in Church. Our woman Salvation Army Offer husband who is another Officer in our Church. Played the Father’s Love Letter. All it said about what God thinks of me. Made me cry. Too think God loves me that much. He even know the very hairs on my head and they are all numbered. I was just amazed. To think my Heavenly Father love me that much. You get the Father’s Love Letter on YouTube. Just type in the Father’s Love Letter. It will come up. Worth listening too Aliza. To know all our Heavenly Father thinks of us and how presious we are to him. It doesn’t matter what people think our say. All that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. I then after all that began to heal. But I still cry at it at times to this day. But I can if I see the people that used to go to the School I was at were the name was called. It doesn’t hurt anymore. As God has healed me. But it does not matter what age we Kids or Adults. Words can hurt. So if I hear a Kids or Adults calling someone a name. I say if I know them don’t call anyone names. It not nice. I do stop them. I pray for them. I am so proud of you Aliza for all you come through too. Thank you for sharing your story. God is good. It remind me of kids song I learnt at Sunday School. When small. It applys to us as Adults today you also get it on YouTube. Especially if saved. It makes you think of your words. “It is be careful.” The words go like this. Be careful little eyes what you see, there is a Father up above who is watching. Then you put in were the word eyes and Hand for the rest of the words. They go these words for each verse. Mouth it goes be careful what you say. There is a Father up above who is watching. Then the last verse goes Hands. Be careful little hands what you do there is a Father above who is watching. That song I learnt in Sunday School years ago when small. I believe it is so true for us as Adults today. Especially as I said if saved. Love Dawn keeping you all incourage in my prayers. Co.Fermanagh. N.Ireland. My God richly bless you all for these reading and sharing your heart’s. I learnt so much from you all xx
Gail Noe says
Absolutely, when I was a very small child by a family member. It was so severe it shackled me to the spirit of rejection for years. Then the Holy Spirit entered and began to teach me truth of God’s great unconditional love for me. I have been digging in hard on the Armor of God from Ephesians 6 just exactly what each piece means and what it does. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in high places. This is a spiritual war. Jesus won it all for us!!!
Becky Keife says
Aliza, I’m so glad you are running in the freedom of Jesus. You are wonderfully made and worthy of worshipping God with the good body He gave you. Your closing question reminds me of when I was 18 and someone close to me told me that I was selfish—that all they see when they look at me is a selfish girl. Those words became a banner over me and a constant condemnation for a very long time. But thankfully, 20 years later, God has assured me that while I may act selfishly at times, that selfish is not who I am. He knows me heart and is gentle and compassionate if/when I need to recheck my motives.
My husband made the decision to leave our marriage after 24 years. For a long time I couldn’t look in the mirror without crying, thinking about how ugly I must have looked to him. I’ve had to work on not letting his decision to move on with other women define how I feel about myself. I appreciate your reminder that we are made in God’s image, and we can’t let other people’s decisions and comments define who we are. Thank you for these words!
Jeanne Kain says
I WAS skinny!!!..I got called skinny…I could hear people say, did you see how skinny she is, or let’s call her termite..she eats a lot and doesn’t gain weight…my dr says I’m healthy..I’m 75 yrs old…I still remember getting my feelings hurt, but the more I grew with God, the less I worried about what others thought of my physical appearance…I felt sorry for them….remembering words are mightier then the sword!!..Gods words are the cornerstone!!