Iron and Aluminum

Last weekend, Augusta hosted its Inaugural Event of the Ironman Triathlon 70.3. While I participated in the Mistletoe Sprint Triathlon, the distance numbers  p a l e  in comparison to the Ironman.  Mistletoe’s race is considered a “sprint” because it is so short when stacked next to the full – Ironman  a 2.4 mi. swim • 112 mi. bike • 26.2 mi. run. Our Augusta Ironman was a “half,” which means it was a 1.2 mi. swim • 56 mi. bike • 13.1 mi. run.  The sprint that I did a few months ago was a 600 meter swim (around a third of a mile), an 11.8 mile bike with a 3.1 run at the end.

I have to tell you that I was simply giddy as vehicles began to roll into town.  Bikes were everywhere.  People were riding them on the streets and sidewalks, they were mounted to the tops of vehicles, fastened into the beds of pick up trucks, stacked on bike racks behind SUV’s and disassembled and safely tucked into back seats.  There were bikes whose tires ALONE were worth thousands of dollars, and tiny tyke bikes that were for small peddalers.

They represent determination and dedication to completing a task.  They are a symbol of a body prepared, a mind focused and a goal set, soon to be reached.  They are aluminum and rubber embodied tenacity.

I have several friends from Bainbridge, Georgia who came up for the race.  Glory’s rowing coach from two years ago ran the event.  And a new friend that I met through Facebook came over from Atlanta to participate. I can honestly say that I have never even entertained the idea that a full OR a half Ironman would be a goal I would like to reach.  I don’t even like to DRIVE 13 miles, much less run it!  But, oh how I could relate to the people that were there to participate.

I am always moved at a children’s band concert, a ballet performance, or a sporting event like a triathlon.  So  v e r y much grit and energy are poured into getting ready for an occasion like one of these that I can identify with the feeling of accomplishment.  I rejoice with them in the feeling of joy of reaching the goal after having trained and practiced for so long.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.
In scripture, Paul encourages us to  “… run with endurance the race that is set before us.” There are some “races” that we choose, like a triathlon or a certain job.  There are some “races” in which we participate that are chosen by default, like becoming pregnant because you chose to be intimate or having a wreck because you chose to drive while intoxicated.  Then there are those “races” that are of no choosing of our own as is the case in abuse, rape, cancer or being deserted by one’s spouse.

In most races, the ultimate goal is winning. Depending on the race, “winning” can be defined in a myriad of different ways. And two races could be run side by side, with two different goals, depending on the people who are participating.

Of course, the race that is my focus right now is that of single-parent mothering, loving and mentoring my sweet children.  This is a race that I have not chosen, but has been chosen for me.  I can drag my feet, grumble and whine all the way to the end, or I can choose to flex my muscles, watch the road ahead and be careful with each stride.

And how do I define winning?  I would have to say that my prayer is that my children be drawn closer to God and not just “survive” this gift, but that they flourish, they blossom, they become stronger, more compassionate, tender, and kind people because of the route that has been laid out before us.

Like the bumper sticker that says, “Be careful what you pray for. I prayed for patience; God gave me kids.” To become stronger, the strands of muscle must be pulled taut and the fibers must be broken before they can rebuild and strengthen. To learn compassion, we must be wounded to understand the pain.  To be tender and kind, we best learn by having someone be gruff, distant or indifferent to us.

Isn’t it odd that we learn best by pain?

And so, I do not pray that the pain be taken away, but that we learn through it.  I remember hearing Elisabeth Elliott once say that she did not pray that God would remove the pain but that He would teach her what she needed to know and that she would remember it and not have to learn the same lesson again.

Oh, that I would not shun this gift. Oh, that my children would grow and learn. Oh, that we would each run the race with endurance and be blessed with more compassion, tenderness and strength each day.

What race do you find yourself running these day?

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