On March 9th of 2013 to be exact, the spartan race took place in GA, just like the previous year, I woke up (what some of us consider) early around 6:30 A.M. got my gear on and headed to partake in a conjunction of obstacles, mud, and 4 miles of trail running designed to test your body and mind. I must admit there was a little bit of anticipation from the night before the race, the excitement of finding out how much better I would do this time, how different the obstacles would be compared to the previous year’s, and also trying to comprehend what is it that makes me invest time and money in training and competing in something that challenges myself physically and mentally. Why is it that I find it entertaining to willingly test my physical condition against obstacles that require climbing walls, crawling through mud, dipping myself in cold water, and run against the clock trying to be better every time?
Well, not too long after having competed, I was asked to write this excerpt based on the following question: How would you finish the following statement ” The five things I’ve learned about the Christian life by running the Spartan Race are?” As you may see from the time the race took place and the date when this article has been posted, it took me a while to come up with the answers to this question. At first I wasn’t sure of what to write, how could such a mundane thing as running through the mud relate to an spiritual and important thing that is living a Christian life. But after many times of sitting in front of the computer with a blank mind and asking God to reveal to me I finally was able to come up with the following 5 relationships that explain better why I ran the spartan race.
1. Taking care of our bodies and exercising discipline
From having completed the race itself I learned that it requires preparation, training, and a test to find out how much we have grown or improved. The same thing happens with our spiritual life, if we want to improve an aspect of our christian life, lets say prayer, or spending time reading the bible, we must prepare ourselves by finding time in our schedule to do so, making up a goal where we specify how much time we are going to dedicate to the exercising of this discipline, we must train, and by this I mean do it over and over, so that we get used to it and becomes a habit, and ultimately we must test the results, sign up for the next prayer retreat, or the next bible study class at your church, see how much you have grown and learn from the process.
The bible also calls us to take care of our bodies as well as to take care of our soul; 3 John 1:2 says Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. By doing the spartan race I am helping myself take care of my body in a physical and mental way, I’m teaching myself to have goals, determination, to exercise discipline to stick to my schedule and training, to get out of my comfort zone, and to reap the fruits of a healthy lifestyle. All these are skills that can be easily transferred to my christian life and daily life in general.
2. Camaraderie, fellowship, andService
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing, Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. We can find in the Bible many verses that talk about fellowship, and it seems to be avery important core value as a christian. Because this is the way we support one another, learn from each other examples and mistakes, and come together to grow together spiritually and personally. Spartan race as well as many other obstacles races make very clear that this is a team sport, although each person gets ranked individually, many of these obstacles are made so that pretty much you need the help of other fellow competitors to be able to complete them. It seems like it comes natural to human beings to come together to overcome a greater obstacle, to go out and help someone with whom you identify or who is going through the same struggle as you are, and to rejoice in the triumphs of others. At the end of the day whether at church on Sundays or in the middle of your obstacle race covered in mud, it is about building camaraderie and helping one another reach our goals, to get to that finish line.
3. Recognize my weaknesses and overcoming them
One interesting fact about the race is that you do not know what the obstacles are until the very day you are running, this makes it so that being exposed to a variety of unknown obstacles challenges you in different ways exposing both your strengths and weaknesses. Some might find that running 4 miles or crawling through mud are easy tasks, but rope climbing and sand bag carries are a tougher job than they seemed. It is what we do and how we handle the situation when we face that obstacle at which we struggle a bit more. Similarly in our christian life we start by recognizing that we are sinners, we are not perfect, and need from God to overcome our shortcomings. We all have areas in our lives that we wish we could improve. Some struggle with bad temper others with self confidence, but we all at some point are put in a situation in which our weaknesses are exposed and are left to understand that we need God’s grace to work in our lives. Same way that training for a spartan race makes me focus on those areas that I struggle with the most, in my daily walking with Christ through prayer and reading of the scriptures, I try to focus on those areas in my life where God wants to work a bit more.
4. Resisting temptation and exercising discipline again
I have already mentioned that one of the benefits of participating in an event such as spartan race is the opportunity of exercising discipline and becoming better at it. We exercise discipline by sticking to our training schedule, but we also learn more about discipline by resisting temptation. What I mean by this is that at times we are going to feel tired, sore, and without the motivation to train, we are going to get cravings for unhealthy food which we must learn to control if our goal from participating in the race also covers learning a healthier lifestyle. Being disciplined takes effort from the beginning to the end, from the moment we register for the race to the day we compete. What more clearer example to us than to resist temptation in or daily spiritual journey. We recognize that there are areas in which we are weak and understand from the bible that we are given the tools by God to resist sin. Same way as staying on the right path for the spartan race, as Christians we face the option of making the correct decisions to not stray from Gods purpose for our lives.
5. Finding reward in following good example
The last but not least relationship that I found between the spartan race and the christian life is the fact that both bring great reward at the end of the day. My motivation of doing my first spartan race came from the observation of someone else who was doing something great. I learned of someone who (with the purpose of conserving his anonymity I will not mention) had lost a significant amount of weight by exercising on his own. He had made exercise a life choice and a lifestyle. The most impressive thing for me was that this person was able to develop a discipline that allowed him to train on his own, early in the morning if that is what fitted his schedule, and he had been doing this for a long period of time. I wanted that!, I wanted that dedication, that determination, and I wanted it now! Right there I made the decision of finding something, something new that I had never tried before, something that would require for me to prepare myself physically, and something that would give me the extra motivation so that I would not quit half way through so it had to cost me some money. What I did was I decided to follow this man’s example, and discovered along the way that there is such a gratification in setting up goals and being able to reach them, in surprising oneself with the new things one can do,in turning around and say holy cow I just did that!! Well there is an even greater gratification in following the example of Jesus, by living a life of faith I can rest assured that God has a perfect plan for my life, and I can entrust in him anything, and because of his grace through the following of his example I can enjoy the gratification of his blessing in my daily living.