“Why in the world would you want to do something like that?” My mother asked this question every time we’ve talked about the ironman triathlon I completed last Saturday in Clermont, Florida. “What’s the point of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles?”
There are three reasons why I chose to compete in this crazy event, for which it literally took me over a year to prepare. The first reason is that I love challenging myself. I thrive on setting goals and then finding creative ways to achieve them. My goal with the ironman was to see how well I could train and how far I could push my body. I have always been convinced that we humans can achieve far more than we think we can. When people say, “You can’t do that,” it only reinforces my determination to reply, “Why not?” There’s almost always a way. We are only limited by our minds, our attitudes and our unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifices.
A second reason I trained for the ironman triathlon is that I wanted to face some of my fears. Let me tell you about my many fears:
- I fear getting motion sick while swimming.
- I fear being trampled by other swimmers who are much stronger than me.
- I fear getting a flat tire on my bike and not being able to fix it.
- I fear being stranded alone on my bike in the middle of nowhere.
- I fear being attacked by a dog.
- I fear crashing my bike and injuring myself, which I did once this summer.
- I fear getting lost.
- I fear being under-prepared.
I actually encountered many of these fears and learned to work through them.
The third reason I trained for this triathlon is that I am a risk-taker. Leadership is about risk, for risk entails moving beyond the status quo. When we risk, we venture beyond the familiar, knowing that God is with us. If we always play it safe, we close ourselves off to new possibilities and won’t get anywhere in life. When we lead with our heart, we venture into an unknown future that hovers right at the border between our comfort zone and chaos.
What did I learn from my ironman experience?
- I learned that the race was 45% physical and 55% mental, especially those last few lonely miles when my legs were burning, and I wanted to lie down in the road and take a nap.
- I needed people to help and coach me, but in the end, my training and, ultimately, the race was a very solitary experience. No one could do it for me.
- Successfully completing any goal involves a tremendous amount of discipline and preparation. Getting up at 5 a.m. to cycle, swimming at 9 p.m., running alone in the dark, and biking in the rain and wind were not fun but were a necessary part of my training.
- When I pushed beyond my comfort zone in my workouts, then took the time to recover, I became stronger.
- I learned that by training outside so much, I received back energy from God’s creation. I was one with the water, one with my bike, one with the road, one with the earth.
- I learned a whole lot about the Grand Rapids District by biking through almost every area of the district this summer and fall. I passed a number of your churches.
- I learned anew the truth of Philippians 4:13, which I repeated as a mantra all through the race, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
- Many people were praying for safety and energy for me. I felt the incredible power of those prayers.
In the September-October issue of The Interpreter, there was a brief article about GracePoint, a United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, that wanted to reach out to 18-40 year olds. So they put up a billboard that said, “Church doesn’t SUCK! Gracepoint.com”
Worship attendance increased from 400 to 600 since the marketing campaign began. Of course, the slogan is offensive to many older people, but it appeals to younger folks. Pastor Bryson Butts said, “This is taking a bold risk. We weren’t risking enough. We weren’t stepping out enough. It’s about taking risks and being bold with the gospel.”
What about you? What risks have you taken lately in your personal and professional life? What bold ventures have you said “no” to because you feared failure? What crazy and audacious goals have you set for the next year? What fears are you reluctant to face and conquer? Are you willing to take a risk and make the necessary sacrifices to reach your goals? Where do you need to take a giant leap of faith?
God calls you to lead with your heart. But you can’t lead unless you risk saying “yes” to God and walking (or running, biking or swimming!) into an unknown future.
Oh, I did finish the 140.6 mile race. It took me 12 hours and 44 minutes, much less time than I expected. I could not have done it without Gary’s constant encouragement and support. My parents, Gary’s parents, two of our children and a son-in-law were also there. It was a great life experience.
“One does not discover new lands without consenting
to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”