Everything leading up to Clearwater World Championships 70.3 was special. The idea of even thinking about qualifying was special. Only God could have planted a seed like that in the heart of this very average triathlete. Then, qualifying via an enormous roll down at the Buffalo Springs race was special. Who knew, but God that the 18th place athlete in a field of 33 would get her ticket punched for Clearwater? Then, returning to an incredibly generous birthday gift from my athletes as they helped fund new, fast Zipp wheels!! That’s God working through people to bless me.
Then, there were a series of little set backs. You know, the kind that make you think, “am I really supposed to go to this race?”. Robert and I prayed and managed through all of them. The last one was my respiratory infection. We were to leave on a Tuesday morning. I started on antibioitics on Monday. My doctor Lorraine had given me an IV of anitbiotics plus pills. I felt confident that I would wake up Tuesday ready to roll. Not so. I told Robert that I didn’t want to spend all the money and time getting to Florida to not race. He said, “no, let’s go. God has gotten us this far.” So, we packed up the car and off we went.
As I prepared for this race spiritually, I began to ask God more questions and ask for more specific guidance. I asked him to help me select which training to do and which to skip as I was just physically tired. He guided. I asked him how he wanted me to race. I’ve never asked that before. To this question, I received an incredible lesson.
Through no coincidence our church is in a series called Bless U. It is all about God’s blessing. I also received a book called Sun Stand Still by Steve Furtick from a friend. This is probably my second favorite book of all time (Wide Awake by Erwin McManus being my first). This book describes how God instructs us to live a big, faith filled life where the only explanation for anything is that God is involved.
Between reading my Bible, the book and the message series at church, God really showed me a few key things about him and His ways.
1. He uses average people to accomplish extraordinary things through His supernatural power
2. That these people take risks based on the goodness and almightiness of God and it is through these risks that God shows the world who He is
3. That these average people in the Bible obeyed and followed the same almighty, never changing God I do
The extent that these people followed and obeyed is sometimes staggering. Think of Abraham with Isaac on the altar. It wasn’t until Abraham had the knife lifted over his sons’ head that God spoke and substituted a ram for Isaac. That’s some pretty huge obedience when this is your only son and God has promised you that you’d be the father of many, many, many people.
Let me leave this train of understanding for a moment and go to another insight God gave me during the past month or so.
Facts about Jesus
1. If Jesus were to race Clearwater He could win it. He’s God!
2. Jesus knows physical pain. Extreme physical pain.
3. God broke the physical laws and raised Jesus from the dead.
I always want to race to bring God glory. I know that I wouldn’t be a triathlete if it weren’t God’s plan for me. God pointed out to me that all my prior racing had displayed my potential and abilities but NOT his. WOW.
So, my question became, God, how can I bring YOU glory? How can YOUR power and abilities be displayed not mine?
In all of this, I spoke with Robert, my family and close friends. At no time, did I feel God tell me how Clearwater would be or what he would want to accomplish to bring him glory. Unlike Joshua he didn’t tell me, “go race. you’re going to do great”. He didn’t tell me anything, except go, race.
Oh, how I wanted to know like Joshua knew!! So, I kept reading the Bible looking for examples. I found plenty of examples of victory, I found plenty of examples of suffering. Both. As God works his purposes out through people who want to be used, sometimes it is through victory and sometimes it is not.
I believe that as I learned what the Bible told me about those that truly follow, God asked me to be ready for anything. Victory, defeat. To give up any preconceieved notions and just trust that He would be with me and that He would get the glory.
That is hard. But I also realized that He was teaching me a spiritual lesson through a physical experience. How I handled whatever Clearwater threw at me was my demonstration to God about how willing I would be to serve him and obey him…This kind of scared me. No, it really scared me.
So, on Saturday morning, Robert and I knelt down in our little hotel apartment and prayed. Our prayer went something like this, “Win, lose or draw. All the glory to you God. If the race is fun and exciting. If the race is painful. If I am hurt. No matter what, I give you all the glory.”
So, as Clearwater unfolded and I began to understand that I would be in a battle straight to the finish line, I began to think about all I had been recently taught.
You know, when God took the Israelites to their promised land after 40 years in the wildneress, he didn’t just hand them the keys. They had to go TAKE the land from the giants living in it. I had to take my race.
So, I know that I can do all things through Christ (Phil. 4;13) but I felt God wanted me to flip that around and He can do all things through me if I just get out of the way! So, as I raced, I didn’t ask myself how I felt. I asked Jesus. Each time I asked, Jesus said continue. As I raced, I thanked him for the opportunity to race, to learn how to keep pressing forward and manage the challenges presented to me. I asked him to strengthen me, to help me, to hold me up with his victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10). And each time I asked, I felt a renewed mental and physical ability to continue to press on, move forward.
I know there are many others that have raced and suffered. I am NOT alone and I am nothing special because I finished. I realize that.
But, God was with me each swim stroke in the chop, each pedal stroke and each run step. It was by His power each time I asked that I was able to move forward. Without his strength and his help, I don’t think I could have finished yet alone finished in 6:04. That time, while not spectacular if you look at it at face value, is spectacular because of what God provided me on that day.
I went willingly to race. God willingly showed up to help me finish the task he set before me.
I am not the same woman, wife or coach that went to Clearwater. This was a life changing experience to see how God brought me to Clearwater and how he used the sport I love to teach me a lesson in going forward without knowing what might be asked of me and in dependence on Him to race through me – to strengthen me, help me. To stop checking in with myself to see if I’m ok, If I’m comfortable, if I’m satisfied. But instead to check in with God – is He ok? What does He want me to do? How does He want me to respond and behave? Each step, every day..checking in with God to make sure He is ok with my next step….To not worry about the final destination, but to take the journey with God, one step of obedience at a time and leave the outcome to him so that He gets the glory!
But we also rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces perseverance and perseverance character and character hope. Romans 5:3-4.
Soli Deo Gloria