This time last year I did one of the maddest things I’ve ever done. Along with a group of crazy women, I signed up for an obstacle course race called ‘The Suffering’. I love a challenge, especially one that scares me, and we were all raising money for an incredible charity that helps street boys in Kampala reach their potential. Our idea was simple: ‘we would suffer, so they don’t have to’. (Go check out Freedom Heroes and get involved!)
And then the real fear set in. I watched YouTube videos of the race, which is the equivalent of googling your symptoms when you’re a little under the weather. Sometimes, more knowledge is NOT a good thing. The mud-covered, barbed wire-crawling, sandbag-carrying, rope-climbing, wall-scaling athletes were superheroes. And I did not match up. My biggest enemy was the monkey bars. I’m naturally quite slim, and all my weight is in my hips and thighs. Successfully completing monkey bars with my fairly pitiful upper-body strength would be impossible. Without training.
As a church, we were in a teaching series called ‘Stronger’ and one Sunday the message was titled ‘Glorious Endurance’. My God-given word to characterise last year was perseverance, and already the training had begun to show me how much I had to learn.
Usually, endurance isn’t seen in a particularly glamorous light. But just like training for this race, the glory is often found in the consistent daily details.
Whether that’s praying for a situation that looks immovable, or fighting for a dream that doesn’t seem to be getting closer, often the best thing we can do, is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trusting that God is holding the bigger plan.
The thing I’ve found with exercise is that, at different points in my life, I have either been pushing myself (in a healthy motivated and disciplined way) or punishing myself (in an unhealthy, fear-driven manner). About six weeks before the race, I had a revelation: if I continued to be motivated by my fear of failure, I would try it all in my own strength (which was still minimal). However, if I chose to motivate myself with love for the boys we were raising money for, I’d gain a new strength from a greater purpose. I didn’t need to look at the finish line, just the challenge directly in front of me. As long as I was disciplined and motivated, God would be in charge of the rest.
The day came and I was overwhelmed with gratefulness at the genuine joy I felt the whole way through. The obstacles were not easy, but the fear of failure had been demolished and I was already victorious. I reached the once-dreaded monkey bars and stared them down (doing star jumps as a punishing warm up demanded by the race) and in my mind, I knew I’d already succeeded. I jumped up, feeling stronger than I ever have before, and confidently used my well-trained, firmly-disciplined body to do exactly what I needed. It was a moment of elation I will always remember with great pride.
It didn’t happen overnight, it wasn’t an impossible miracle, it was simply a result of the glorious endurance of a daily perseverance.
Here’s my exercise advice: aim to be fit, not thin, and strong, not slim. We all have a ‘stronger’ journey. And my spiritual advice: whether it’s raising your faith and expectations, developing a skill that seems way out of your league, stepping up into a role that terrifies you, or simply preserving in your waiting for a miracle: know that God is with you. He was with me, one step at a time, and He’s with you too, giving you enough strength to face each day and offering you new mercies each morning. There is nothing weak about you. If I can do the monkey bars, you can do anything. Trust me. Trust God.