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Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Mudder's Testimony

I didn't blog this at the time because quite frankly, I didn’t want to Mudder anyone out. Maybe it's the approach of our 2nd one on Saturday, but this has been on the forefront of my mind and I've been feeling the nudge to share it. If you’re ‘Mudder-ly exhausted’ with me, move on, don’t read it and please accept my apology. But it's been my experience that I wouldn't be feeling the push unless someone could use it. If that's the case, here it is.  This entry is everything God taught me through my first Tough Mudder back in October. I was scheduled to speak at a Women’s Conference 3 weeks later. The timing was no coincidence and this is the revised and written account of my experience:


Before I tell you how I ended up in a Tough Mudder, let me give you a brief history of what was going on in my life leading up to it. From 2007 to 2011 I was in a season of life where I felt like I was getting taken apart. My life was being changed and rearranged and at the time it felt like loss. Relationships were evolving, restoring and some were ending. Each Beth Moore study I did pinpointed everything I was doing wrong and more changes God was asking me to make. I started feeling like God's “Special Project” and that His main goal was to show me what a hot mess I was. And it was working.


In what seemed like a spiritually unrelated choice in my life, I started running in 2011. It was absolutely miserable for awhile and I hated every minute of it, but I struggle with my weight and running kept me physically on track, so I stuck with it.


When 2012 rolled around I was feeling pretty good. Things were smoothing out in my life emotionally. I was feeling great physically. I noticed that God had replaced relationships that ended with healthy ones that were thriving.  Spiritually things were calm, meaning I didn't feel God asking me to do anything different and that's just the way I like it. I felt free and really comfortable.


Then last May the rug was pulled out from under me when I was asked to participate in a Fashion Show and my smooth sailing life came to screeching halt with a 5 second walk down a “runway” at church. It might surprise you to know that despite my desire to be a cheerleader again, my comfort zone is writing behind my computer and I was in complete turmoil in the weeks leading up to it and actually cried before walking out on stage. I kept thinking, “What am I doing here? I'm not supposed to be seen!” That day, I was brought face to face with my insecurities, fears of looking foolish and fears of what people were thinking about me.


Right after that, all my worlds collided and everything shifted. Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and a spiritual gift assessment called PLACE I took at church became about my identity in Christ and how much He loves me.  As weird as it sounds, all of that transitioned into my workouts and every time I ran, I felt God saying, “I made you free. Now I'm going to make you strong.” I didn't know what it meant, but it felt really good. And then I started hearing the song, Redeemed, all the time in unexpected places and times. You know when a song comes on the radio and the words just speak to you? Well these words spoke comfort to me. So every time I heard it I started turning to my husband and saying, “God's hugging me right now.” It was happening so often, it became a running joke in our family. But it was like a veil was lifted and God took my focus off of everything I still needed to fix and instead revealed the many areas He'd healed. It felt amazing!

That’s when God began shoving me out of my comfort zone through my friendship with Lissa, a wonderful young lady I met in Massage School way back when. Suddenly, I found myself training for and participating in, physically and mentally demanding events.


Enter Tough Mudder. Besides what I could find on YouTube, I had no idea what to expect, so I didn’t know how to prepare for it.  Keeping in mind my fears of looking foolish and embarrassing myself, this became a training nightmare for me. I went to the Mudder website and found a workout called ‘Tough Mudder Boot Camp.’ It's 5 circuits of 6 different exercises and you run a mile between each circuit. So I printed it off expecting it to be a step-by-step guide of the obstacles that would be on our course. Here's the problem. It’s written in Tough Mudder language I didn't understand. The exercises are called things like “Kiss of Mud” and “Boa Constrictor” and “Log Bog Belly Bombers.” It gives a description of what to do, but no explanation of how it would apply to the course. I just wanted somebody to tell me exactly what was about to happen so that I knew how to prepare!  How in the world was that supposed to prepare me for unknown obstacles? But here’s the deal. That was written by someone who knows the course. And since that was the only thing I had to go by, I had no choice but to dive in and trust the one who wrote it.


That training is hard and it's not fun. I was working out 7 days a week, even on vacation, because in my mind, to take a day off was to miss an opportunity to prepare myself for this unknown event that loomed on my calendar in big red writing. Although I still didn't know what our course would entail, my whole body was getting stronger.  Could it be that this boot camp workout creator knew what he was doing?


October 20th. was Mudder Day. No kidding, we heard Redeemed at least 4 times on various radio stations as we drove to Kentucky. At one point, my husband said, “Oh, this is ridiculous.” It was funny, but on a serious note, it was reassuring to me. God really was in this....and it's a good thing, because when we stopped at Kroger in Kentucky to go to the bathroom, a lady started telling us how all of the local hospitals had been put on High Alert for some Tough Mudder event...and then Lissa shoved me out of the bathroom to prevent me from hearing the rest of what she said.

We parked at a fairgrounds and were bussed to the Mudder site. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were herded through the registration lines where they wrote our number really big across our foreheads with black permanent marker. I was wearing workout clothes made specifically to be light and dry quickly, which was supposed to help on a cold day. It was 88% percent spandex from top to bottom. So there I was, the 40 year old woman who's terrified of looking foolish, standing in a crowd of people, squeezed into a spanx suit with a giant black number scrawled across my forehead thinking, “Where's that hug now, God?”


Looking around, I noticed a lot of us marked by our numbers, clean and dry, but cold and nervous. Then there were those wearing orange headbands around their heads, covering their numbers. Those people were wet, filthy, scraped up and sometimes bleeding, but they were celebrating. They had finished. They were no longer identified by the numbers on their foreheads. They were known as Tough Mudders. They'd achieved what they came for and despite the cold, pain, fear and obstacles along the way, they finished and I was envious of them.


After climbing an 8ft wall to get to the starting line, it was 12 straight miles of mud. Most of those miles were spent crawling up very steep hills or sliding and falling down them. Some of those miles were spent trudging through mud that was knee or even chest deep. There were 25 obstacles that consisted of crawling under barbed wire, jumping into an ice tank, monkey bars and rings above water, jumping off a 20 foot ledge into cold water, running through fire, crawling through water under live wires dangling above, jolting us with electricity. Then there were under ground tunnels and tubes that were immersed under water. Do you know that I'm claustrophobic? Not to mention my strong aversion to electro-shock therapy. A woman broke her ankle right beside us and people were quitting throughout the course. Tough Mudder is not meant for someone like me who lives her life afraid.


It became obvious early on that this course was not designed to do alone. You could, but it would increase your risk of injury by a lot. Our team had 7 members and we all became very bonded with each other that day. Believe it or not, we laughed a lot throughout the course. How could we not? We were falling down all the time, squeezed into spandex wet suits, wedgies like you've never seen before and we looked like we'd been dipped in chocolate. At one point, my husband was suctioned into waist deep mud and our team and a group of strangers formed a human chain to pull him out. When he finally broke free I said, “Maybe God was hugging you in there.” Sometimes he doesn’t think I’m as hilarious as I do.


When we came to an obstacle that was especially hard for someone, the rest of the team would rally around them, going before them and after them, shouting words of encouragement or even comfort until they reached the other side and then we'd all celebrate the personal victory. Several of our team members were able to fearlessly jump off the 20 ft plank, so they went first and then relentlessly cheered until the rest of us got the courage to finally take the literal leap of faith and step off the ledge. Around the 8th mile, I was shivering from cold and I'd damaged my shoulder when we approached the swinging rings. The last thing in the world I wanted at that moment was to plunge into more freezing water. My friend went on before me and I said, “Is the water cold?” She said, “NO! It's really warm!” I grabbed the ring above my head, swung out and dropped into the freezing cold water. Turns out, Lissa lies. When I climbed out furious, she used one of the phrases from the Tough Mudder pledge on me: “Do not whine, kids whine.” I kinda hated her that day.


At the very end of the course, we had to run through more live wires, but on the other side stood the woman handing out the orange headbands. I crossed the finish line and she placed it around my forehead and covered my number. We were the last group of the day, so as we were leaving I knew the people who still had numbers visible on their foreheads had been unable to finish for one reason or another. They'd either quit or gotten injured. I was soaking wet, muddy, freezing, bruised and hurting everywhere, but I felt sad for them. They didn't get to feel the victory of finishing.


Looking back, it reminds me of how slaves were marked with a number that became their identity. In a way, my fears & insecurities were my own personal identity that I saw every time I looked in the mirror, like an ugly black number across my forehead. God used Tough Mudder to bring me face to face with real fear, to finally break me free from being a slave to mine.


When we got in the car to head to the hotel, I kid you not, Redeemed came on the radio. My husband rolled his eyes and I was like, “Dude, it's not my fault that Jesus loves me more than you right now.”


So what does this have to do with anything? Real life is nothing but the unknown. We live in uncertain times. We have no idea what awaits us from day to day and many of us are walking around enslaved to our own fears & insecurities. So here's what God taught me from Tough Mudder:

  1. The strength comes from the training. The Bible. Consider it Life's Boot Camp. It’s the tool we have to prepare for the unknown of every day life so we shouldn't be willing to skip even 1 day of training. Sometimes it'll feel like a foreign language and it might hurt. We might even be asked to do hard things that we don't understand. Do it anyway. He's strengthening the muscles He knows we're going to need for the challenges ahead.
  2. Form a team. Surround yourself with people who are not only going to challenge you, but go before you and come behind you and cheer you on and help you up, and laugh with you and cry with you and even find someone who's brave enough to tell you to stop whining. Look for people to help along the way, whether they're on your team or not. Because God did not design this course to do alone.
  3. Claim your identity and wear it across your forehead like a badge of honor. Galatians 4:7 says, “Now you are no longer a slave but God's own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Our identity is not an ugly black number across our forehead. Regardless of how we see ourselves, God looks at us and sees His royal bloodline. So celebrate!
  4. And finally, start living. Romans 8:37 says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Unfortunately, I'm the type of person God had to take across 12 miles of muddy Kentucky hills to get it through my head how much He loves me and that He created me to do things and that He alone is enough to cover all the things that scare me. We have to stop putting the faith in ourselves and start putting it in the one who designed the course! God called Peter out of the boat to walk on the water, not because Peter had the power to do it, but because God did. God called me out from behind the safety of my computer again to tell my story and it was not comfortable for me. But ya know what? God's not calling us to be comfortable.  

    I still struggle with my insecurities and here on my blog I like to joke about my crisis-inspired adventurous streak.  But in reality, I'm simply trying to stop allowing those insecurities to rule me.  I've decided to LIVE!  I'm just sorry it took me 40 years to start!

    Now what is it God's calling you to do? Step out of the boat. Stop hiding. Don't let your fears and insecurities dictate your choices. Live like the conquerors God says you already are! You might fall down. You might look foolish. People might laugh at you and you might even get hurt or bruised along the way. But at least you can say you finished the course!  

    So what are you waiting for?

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