A couple of months ago, Eric competed in a half iron man. This triathlon consists of swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles, and running 13.1 miles. Only one triathlon surpasses this one--the full Iron Man. Yes, that would be twice this distance--swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles. A full iron man on average takes at least twelve hours to complete. Thus, Eric hoped to complete the half in six hours. This triathlon was the first one of such magnitude for him ever to attempt. He was ready, though. He had put in the hours and trained hard. Now it was time to perform.
As the race approached, it appeared that all the odds were stacked against him. First of all, he was out of town for work most of the week beforehand. Secondly, he caught a flu virus that had affected some of our children in the prior week. Traveling in and of itself can be exhausting, but traveling while you are sick is just plain miserable. As he left for Boston on Monday, he had chills and body aches. As the week progressed, his fever broke but he began coughing and hacking up phlegm. "At least the fever is gone," I thought optimistically. The fever came back, though, on Thursday night as he traveled home. On Friday, the day before the triathlon, Eric's temperature was 101. He had chills. He was hacking left and right. He was miserable.
Not only did Eric have the sickness to contend with, he also had to contend with the naysayers--his wife being one of them! Myself and a few other female family members :) , while having the best intentions, weren't encouraging. We threw questions and comments out there like: 'Are you sure this is a good idea?' 'You're going to go ahead and go through with this?' 'You're going to wind up in the hospital!' Mind you, our questions and comments came from concern and love for him--we didn't want him to suffer more and wind up even sicker. Looking back, though, I realize now that all it did was cast doubt and discouragement on the already grim situation.
By Friday evening, as I realized that this guy was going to compete in this race, come hell or high water, I wholeheartedly got behind him and determined that he was going to need our prayer support every step of the way. As I left him a note to read prior to running the next morning, I asked God for just the right words. God impressed upon me to remind him that it was going to be God's supernatural strength--not his own--that would get him through the race. Philippians 4:13 never seemed more tangible as I wrote the words on his card 'You CAN do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you!' and 'He is your strength in your weakness!'
The next day, the kids and I spent the day going to different spots along the race route to cheer Eric on. Once again, I was reminded of the excitement of watching a race of sheer endurance. There is nothing quite like cheering on people who have put in hours and hours of preparation. We yelled and cheered until our voices were hoarse. Watching Eric come across the finish line was exhilarating, to say the least. He finished in 5:52, beating his goal of six hours. I can't imagine the amount of satisfaction he must have felt.
Can you believe that Eric did not cough one single time throughout that race? No, not one time. God definitely was His strength and sustained him during that race. I thought about whether or not I would have stuck it out if I had been that sick. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have. I would have thrown in the towel and then missed out on what God wanted to do. My husband really etched a picture in my mind that day of what true perseverance looks like. True perseverance happens when all odds are stacked against you. True perseverance happens when you dig down deep and muster it up when it feels like you've got nothing left to give. True perseverance is staying the course no matter what is thrown your way. It's keeping the faith. It's standing strong until the end.
My husband's steadfastness conquered a triathlon that day. My prayer is that these lessons learned physically will transfer over into our spiritual lives. I yearn for us to live our lives intentionally for the Lord. I yearn to do the hard things--whatever those things might be. I yearn to not shrink back and bow out due to fear. I yearn to give it our all and never throw in the towel. I yearn to face suffering head on without complaint or whine. I yearn to rely on the Lord's strength through and through. I yearn...to keep writing, but my time's up. The dishes are calling my name.