(On January 15, 2012, I completed my first marathon. This series breaks down 8 important lessons I learned on my journey to the finish line.)
When I was little I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I was athletic, could throw hard, and could field my position with the best of them. I felt like I could make it. In fact, I knew I could, and I would stop at nothing to get there.
7th grade rolled around, and it was time to tryout for the school team. I made it past the cut and the second cut. There were 18 of us left to fill 16 spots, and well . . . I was one of the last two cut. It was heartbreaking, but I dusted off my wounds and worked harder. I tried out for the 8th grade team the following year, and guess what? I got cut again . . . one of the last ones. The hard work continued, and I gave it a couple more shots early in my high school career, and, each time . . . cut . . . at the end.
The pain was too much, and I couldn't bear the thought of another year of hard work only to be rejected again. So, when it came time to try out for the Varsity Team my senior year, I gave up. I quit.
What's Hurting You?
All of us have some kind of pain, and often a lot more pain (illness, broken relationships, loss of employment) than I experienced getting cut from the baseball team. The temptation can be to quit and give up. But God wants us to do one simple thing: push through.
With this in mind, I set out to run my first marathon, knowing that I did not want to repeat the same failure that had burdened me in high school.
As the race began that day, things were great. The weather was perfect. My energy level was high, and my playlist of motivational songs was pumping through my iPod with every stride. I was alive. The first seven miles felt like nothing. At mile 10, I smiled, realizing my dream was coming true. At mile 13, I was half way there. But, then I hit mile 18 and . . . ouch. What was that?!?
As I continued on, I looked down at my left knee – It was swollen. It had taken a little more impact because of the way the course was laid out. I was having trouble bending it and started to question whether or not I could finish. Coupled with this pain came an intense amount of fatigue. My energy level was dropping, and I still had 8 miles to go. But, I wanted that finish line so badly.
It was at this point that I had to make a decision. I could quit, or, I could confront the brutal facts of my current reality and find a way to make it to the end. I chose option two, deciding to alter my strategy, slow my pace, and take more walking breaks than I had wanted. And, even though the last eight miles were filled with pain and agony, I did it. I made it.
Pain is Temporary
Cancer survivor and 7-time winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, once said,
'Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.'
It's amazing how often in our lives we give up on our dreams and goals simply because of some pain. One of my biggest regrets is not that I didn't make it as a professional baseball player. It's that I quit because I couldn't handle the pain of rejection.
But pain is temporary, and when I crossed the finish line, and iced my knee, the pain subsided. If I had quit, it would have messed with my head for a long time.
God taught me an important lesson: You can push through more pain than you think. Too often we give up on our dreams and goals because we feel like we can't overcome the pain. I know because I've done just that, but as Saint Paul reminds us in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
The suffering is worth it because the glory is so much greater. So no matter what your pain may be, take a moment, offer it up to God and keep pushing through. It's not easy, but it's worth it.