I recently began training for an Ironman triathlon.
I know, I am crazy.
Now that we have established that;
Throughout training, there have been moments of weakness. “Stop now,” my body says, “This is not good for you. You need to stop, you can’t handle this.”
“What the heck are you doing? This is too much! You crazy lunatic, are you trying to kill me? Calm yo’self.”-Leg muscles and lungs.
While training, I often feel like I am dying: That if I continue any farther, I will keel over and that will be the end of me.
But even as my mind has logically concluded that to do an Ironman is certifiably insane, something deeper says, “You ought to do this. You ought to go out there and put your blood, tears, and sweat into this. Prove to yourself that you can overcome weakness, and emerge stronger. You will do this, and you will train yourself a little harder each day to achieve this.”
Training for an Ironman does to the body what Maggie’s Place does to the soul. I have often heard prayer referred to as “The Spiritual Exercises.” When a body is exposed to and endures exercise, it becomes as strong as the level of training endured. So it is the same with the soul. Since coming here, there have been countless moments when my mind is saying, “You cannot do this. You cannot love this mom or this donor enough. You don’t have the energy to continue. This is not good for you. Turn back now.” And yet, amidst the craziness, my soul seems to answer, “I was made for this. I need to do this, and God is going to give me the grace and the strength I need to do this.” Case and point: taking phone calls at 3am while on duty, or cleaning out a dryer that contained exploding lint. This is my resistance training. These are the little things that make me stronger by forcing me to rely on God’s grace.
Often, there are moments in which I think, “I don’t think I can continue, I cannot confront this issue, or love in this way.” Honestly, there are moments where I feel like I am dying. Each time I swallow my pride, or love a little harder, or offer up suffering or annoyance, I feel that what I am doing is too hard, and it will surely kill me, much as an athlete feels when training at a more rigorous level than he or she is used to. And yet, at the end of the day, when I have done what I thought I could not do, I am filled with a strength that is not by any means my own, but that is slowly but surely replacing the weakness that once resided in me.
St Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated, Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
Through being at Maggie’s Place, God has used my weaknesses to force me to rely on him, and in doing so has strengthened me. Each time I go out to the donations shed and am overwhelmed by the amount of work that I need to do, or each time I am called to love someone who is difficult to love, God has been my strength.
St Francis of Assisi said it best in stating, “It is that in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Just as resistance and endurance training makes the body stronger, so it does with the soul. Each moment that I do not have the strength to continue, that I die to self, I end up with sanctification: becoming more of who I am called to be.
By Katie Eberwein, a MissionCorps memember