As I felt led to run a marathon, I looked into the training program that was suggested by our wise Team IoH leader, Lisa, and I quickly realized that the training itself was far from my reach. The first week began with a five mile trek, and I was having difficulty walking down the driveway.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, my marathon dreams were not yet shattered. I had several months before I would need to begin the marathon training program. Lisa suggested I train for a 10K, which would in essence prepare me for the first week of the marathon training.
For four months I trained, working up to a 10K that happened to be scheduled in our town the weekend of July 4th. It was a beautiful morning, and as is undoubtedly the case at every 10K race (I really wouldn’t know), I was hardly alone as I stood at the starting line. I looked around to see so many different kinds of people … small children, young adults, older adults, quite old adults, people with various disabilities … even a man eighty-six years old. As the whistle blew, I started out with my friend and mentor, Lisa, at my side. She was going to stay with me, though she was capable of finishing the race in half the time if she left me behind. I was actually quite proud as I moved along steadily at a 14.5 minute mile pace, something I was completely unable to do a few short months ago.
All was dandy for the first 4 miles, when suddenly I felt a strong presence just behind us. I turned to see a pick-up truck, with a man leaning out the window. “I am here to pick up the last runners. You’re too slow. Get in.” Humph. Really? They were going to pull me from the race? I had failed the 10K? How could I have ever possibly believed I could complete a marathon?! I turned to my friend, with tears welling quickly in my eyes, and I said, “Please, Lisa. I can’t get in that truck!” She instructed me to keep walking and she stepped back to speak with the race worker. Her pleas led nowhere; he wanted us off the course. She finally convinced him that we were walking on public roads, so we would simply remove ourselves from the race and be left on our own. He stripped us of our numbers and our shoe chips and left us behind. We were out.
Thankfully, however, I was not brought back in that truck. I was going to finish. But my enthusiasm had vanished. A walk that I started feeling strong was now making me feel incredibly weak, and my pace had not changed. The finish should have lifted my spirits, as I had completed the race in the time I had been working toward, but it didn’t. People had stayed close by and cheered for me as we came to the end. But I knew they were cheering because they felt sorry for me. I had come in dead last.
I imagine all runners, whether a newbie like me or one significantly more capable, at some time, feel weak. I imagine at some point everyone feels tired. I imagine everyone wants to stop and take a rest. I feel this in my life as well as in my training. Some days I feel strong, in control, content, and pleased with my efforts. But more often than not, I feel weak and inadequate. As I complained of my physical weakness, however, Lisa reminded me that I am not supposed to be capable of running a 7-minute-mile pace … not yet. I am just beginning my training. The training calendar put together for us is meant to make us stronger, but it is a process that cannot be rushed. We must be patient and diligent in our training to become stronger. If we rush it, we will hurt ourselves, and then we will be weaker than when we began. Consider what the epistle writer tells us in Hebrews 5:13-14.
13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
There was a great blessing God gave me in my weakness that day. My husband, Deric, was riding in the truck with the man in charge of picking up the slowest runners, helping out where he could with the race that day. Deric tried to explain how difficult it had been for me to train for the 10K and how important is was to me to finish. When the man did not budge, my sweet husband stepped out of the truck and abandoned his post (with a cross look at the driver) to walk the remainder of the course with me. I might have felt weak, but I never felt alone.
So, as we train together physically with the intention of completing a marathon, we will also train together spiritually. We will seek to become strong and mature to handle wisely the plans God has for each of us. As we grow stronger, we will learn the blessings of being weak, the kind of weakness where God’s power is made perfect, the kind of weakness in which we can boast.