On Medals, IV Drips, and the Apostle Paul: A Lesson in Perseverance
The crowd lining the street would roar as I crossed the finish line…I would smile and wave at the adoring fans, a few glistening droplets of sweat on my brow. Then that climactic moment…the moment that make up runners’ most sacred dreams…the pinnacle of achievement…I would be awarded my enormous, shiny finishers medal—a permanent reminder of a job well done.
At least that’s what I pictured when my husband, Sam, and I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville half marathon last winter, and I embarked on my 12 week training plan enthusiastically
Immediately after registering I laid the groundwork. I created a “Running Motivation” board on Pinterest where I pinned recipes incorporating as many energy-filled “superfoods” as possible. I bought running shoes, carefully tailored to match my gait. I subscribed to Runner’s World magazine, researched Italian restaurants in Nashville best-suited for a pre-race carb load, and began crafting the “humble-brag” Facebook status I would post with the picture of me wearing my (hopefully gigantic) medal
When Monday rolled around, we knew we—unfortunately—had to begin the physical portion of our training. My husband’s alarm woke us up at 5:45am. The temperature was hovering around freezing and the sun wouldn’t be up for another few hours. Even the bravest of early birds had not left the warmth of their nests. We rolled out of bed and stumbled out onto the pavement. Gritting my teeth, I forced my body to move forward.
By week three, every inch of my feet were so blistered it looked like I’d tap danced through a pit of hot coals. By week five my blisters had developed blisters. By week ten four of my blackened toenails had abandoned ship. I guess I won’t be wearing sandals this summer…
As the weeks went by, getting up in the morning became harder. To make matters worse, our wake-up times kept getting earlier to account for our ever-increasing mileage. Rather than enjoying lazy Saturday mornings binge-watching Downton Abbey in my pajamas, Sam and I would be out pounding the pavement.
Then, only a few days before the race, our training took another unexpected hit: Sam and I both woke up with the worst head colds we’d ever had. I knew the training might be difficult. But I hadn’t expected this.
Our luck continued, and we woke up on race morning to torrential rainstorms—eerily foreshadowing what we were about to experience. Our colds still hadn’t subsided, but we’d trained too hard and for too long to give up at that point. So we took an assortment of cold medicines and made our way shivering and drenched to the starting line.
The horn sounded and we took off. Within a few miles I started feeling the effects of the cold (and perhaps the carb loading I embraced too enthusiastically the night before…). Each mile was more difficult than the last. By mile 11 tears welled in my eyes as my legs burned. My head was spinning.
Why hadn’t anyone told me it would be so hard?!!
As Christians, we often approach God’s assignments the way I approached training for the half marathon. We might start out excited about the vision God has for us, only to become sidetracked and disheartened by the struggles we inevitably encounter before reaching our goal.
But a look at scripture shows that God’s plans often—if not always—involve persevering through trials. God told David he was going to be King. What David didn’t know was that he would end up having to flee for his life and survive various murder plots. Joseph was given a vision that he would rule over his brothers. But first he was sold into slavery and falsely accused. Jesus was sent to be the savior of the world. Yet to accomplish His mission He had to suffer great pain and death.
The reality is that most of the greatest feats ever accomplished in history were a result of steady perseverance in the face of trials. The difference between people who succeeded and those who didn’t was that some people, keeping their eyes on their goal, continued to persevere despite the obstacles.
The Apostle Paul wrote this encouragement in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I eventually did manage to drag my bruised and battered carcass across the finish line. I then hobbled as quickly as I could to the medical tent where I was placed on an IV drip and had my heart rate monitored for the next hour. But I got that medal! I have it hanging up in my office as a reminder that, though it may involve struggles, reaching the end goal is always worth the effort.