That's me finishing my first (of many hopefully) triathlon, the Santa Maria Valley YMCA Sprint Triathlon to be exact.
If you would have told me on April 14, 2011 that in exactly one year I'd be finishing my first Sprint Triathlon...well you know how the saying goes. There is no way I would have believed you. I was, and had been for quite some time, quite overweight and could hardly keep up with my kids. Although this picture is from 2009 it is a great example of how out of shape I was.
Does that guy look like he could have completed a 1/4 mile swim, 12.5 mile bike and 3.1 mile run? Maybe but probably not seeing as how when I started on this road I couldn't even finish running one mile without stopping.
Now this blog post could get all "Biggest Loser I pulled myself out of obesity by my bootstraps", but I found so much more than physical and mental gain...there was a profound spiritual side to it that is hard to explain but I'll try.
I believe that we were all created by God with certain gifts and talents. I think you can agree with me that it just seems some things come naturally to people. Sure they need to hone their talents and gifts, but there is no doubt some people are meant to be singers, actors, athletes, thinkers, tinkerers, etc. For example, it is very obvious that my wife Linda was meant to be a singer and actor. She is not only immensely talented it is just in her blood! My oldest son seems to have a proclivity towards being a thinker and tinkerer and I think our youngest is a comedian and aspiring athlete.
It comes down to the Eric Liddell quote in Chariots of Fire, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." If you can replace the word "run" in that last sentence with another word, that is the gift or talent God has given you. For a long time I couldn't figure out what that gift or talent could be. I know for sure what it is not after trying a musical with Linda when we were first dating, but I couldn't tell you what it was.
After this triathlon journey I've been on in the last year I think I've figured it out. See growing up I took to sports very quickly. I wasn't the best, but I wasn't the worst and I just get sports. T-ball/baseball? No problem. Basketball? Sure. Tennis, Soccer, Hockey? Yes, yes and yes. I even took a swim class at a Junior College I was attending and took to it like a fish to...ahem water. Yet I still didn't see it. Through my own inner voice and others I figured I just wasn't good at any of it, everyone is probably good at athletics, so I would give up or just take it lightly and not continue. I remember in Jr. High the guys I played basketball with and looked up to at recess talked to the Coach to try to get me to play on an organized team. I had no idea why they wanted me so bad, I honestly couldn't fathom it.
See I think I was made to be an athlete. This is not to brag, because I'm horrible at so many things, but there is a reason I have good hand eye coordination and I learn sports so fast. I think it is because God made me that way! That all was thwarted by other voices that put me down, were overly critical and my own sin of laziness. So I decided to not be an athlete. The consequences of that have been horrendous to my health, mental well being and my spiritual life. I go back to the Liddell quote and wonder what would it be like for him to not run? To not feel God's pleasure? That was me. In that area of my life I could not feel God's pleasure; something was broken. And that's not good.
The great thing is that Jesus came to heal that which his broken (Isaiah 61) and he sure has. Through this last year I've started to realize all I've stated above. That I was meant to be an athlete, that was thwarted and I was broken needing healing. This all culminated with about 1/2 a mile left on my run portion of the triathlon (last leg). I could feel Jesus' presence with me as a ran. I felt him saying, "You were meant to be an athlete. Enjoy. I was there when the voices beat you down and your own sin took that joy from you. I have gone into your past and healed those areas so that you can feel my pleasure." I was overwhelmed and almost broke down in tears.
In the book of Mark, Jesus was asked by a scribe what the greatest commandment was. And Jesus replied with a Deuteronomy passage that paraphrased says, "Know the One true God. Love him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself." I've recently realized something; I can't love God with all of me if parts of me are broken! If my heart or mind or soul or strength (body) is broken it cannot fully do what it was meant to do: Love Jesus. So Jesus has been healing. First my soul when I repented and realized I need him back in 1989 and now he's continuing the work, sanctifying, the other parts.
Now I can enjoy both the athletic activity and God through the athletic activity, the use of this athletic body he has given me. I just couldn't before. I'm looking forward to my next triathlon. Yes because of the accomplishment, but more because I can worship Jesus for healing an area of my life I didn't even know was broken so I can enjoy him more. When I run, bike and swim I can feel his pleasure! Thank you Jesus!
This was a difficult blog to write. I think it can be misconstrued in many ways as prideful to talk about one's gifts and really this experience is an intimate thing between me and Jesus. My hope is that you, the reader, would think upon your life and wonder what is broken and know that Jesus wants nothing more than to heal that brokenness and give you joy. He died and rose again to prove it.
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7