Grit in the Silt
I’ll stir with my stick in the mud. Something has to surface. What have I learned?
Training works. It’s undeniable, and bizarre. The body is fascinating to work with. I’ll never be fast; I’ll never be the strongest, but I can improve on today. To start with, I had no upper body strength. When you use those muscles every day – swinging on the pull up bar every time you pass – the muscles get to thinking that you need to use them for real. Then one day, I attempted a chin up, and up I went! I suppose that is how physiotherapy works. I guess its also how having a personal trainer would work. If you set goals, you can start working towards them. If you don’t set goals, there’s no chance. Not that “anything is possible”, or anything like that. But some things are.
Second lesson: mud is fun. There’s no logic to it. It’s just a fact, a fact that perhaps only holds up when you have post-mud strategies worked out. If you have a warm car with seat covers on standby, a hot shower and fresh clothes, then mud is fun at the time. If I could pinpoint a disappointment with Tough Mudder, it would be the lack of mud. Had it been last year, with the persistent rain for the whole year, it would have been much more fun.
Third observation: I am still risk averse. The “Walk the Plank” and “Funky Monkey” both would have had me falling/jumping into water from a height. To me, that was too risky. I am not experienced enough at that to be sure I would be okay afterwards. So I didn’t do them. Not even tempted to give it a go. All the other obstacles contained risks, technically – but I figured I would be alright. And, after the day I had had at the supermarket with two little girls the previous day – I can tell you – running 11 miles was easy peasy in comparison. But only because I can run eleven miles. It’s good to have that option.
As I sift through the silt left in the mental trench of my mudder experience I come across a quote that has been with me all the way:
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4: 7-8
Perhaps running can only take you so far. Good to see that “physical training is of some value” in Paul’s opinion, but his exhortation is for Timothy to “train yourself to be godly”. He presents the opposite of godliness as listening to godless myths and old wives’ tales. I wonder if today’s equivalents are all the rubbish you can read on the internet! He wants his protege to be trained in divine truth, I suppose, in contrast to the general shared wisdom of his age.
What interests me is the fact that Timothy is instructed to “train yourself to be godly”. Is Paul like the personal trainer here, setting out a programme for Timothy? Timothy is the one who has to put the work in. It is going to take effort, commitment, a change in lifestyle, regular attention to detail – so that one day when he needs to do the spiritual equivalent of a chin-up, hey, he can do it!
Now, this all seems a clash with the perceived role of God in the life of a believer that we are familiar with today – we are so used to “living in grace” and “let go and let God” and all that (As Duncan Campbell said, “There is a kind of gospel being proclaimed today which conveniently accommodates itself to the spirit of the age, and makes no demand for godliness.”) – but the believer is encouraged to put in some effort, set some goals, be focused on constant daily improvement, bringing the lifestyle in to support the drive towards the goals.
I wonder what Paul meant when he said, “godliness has value for all things”, placing it above physical prowess. Maybe it is more of a transferrable attribute, with more applications in life than just the ability to do things fast and with strength. Paul also looks forward to an afterlife, where this godliness comes into its own. Perhaps this is where Timothy gets to do his pull up which surprises himself!
So, rather than cleanliness being next to godliness, I figure that muddiness is next to godliness. And I have much to learn in both physical and spiritual boot camps.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12 vs 1 and 2