WHY SIN ENDED MY TRIATHLON CAREER
I've been competitive for as long as I can remember. And while I have blacked out most of my young childhood, (that's a story for another day) I do remember that I played baseball, not softball, and soccer with the boys. I had to get my ears re-pierced four different times because I would take them out to play sports...talk about a commitment.
I swam all through the years, played water polo very competitively in high school, and then played (less competitively) for the water polo team in college...but through it all, there was a need to win. A need to perform at my best every single game.
After college, I felt lost when it came to sports. There were no local club teams to play water polo...so I started running. Then my boss at the time suggest I start doing triathlon. With my swimming background and my new running hobby, he figured I'd love it. He was right. I bought my first road bike off of craigslist and signed up for my first race.
My bike was heavy (which is not ideal when you're trying to go fast) because I didn't want to invest a lot of money in the beginning. I was brand spanking new to the sport. I never even considered that I would do well at my first race. And then I won. I was good, I was really good. A natural at all three sports, which is rare. Typically triathletes are way better in one of the three disciplines (swim, bike, run), but I was actually really good at all three, which gave me a leg up on the competition.
For the next 4 years I raced, some years more than others, and I won. Not always first, but always in the top 3. The races got longer, a sprint wasn't challenging enough anymore so I raced Olympic distance, then when that was no longer 'feeding my need' I started training for the half ironman. In November of 2013, I raced my first half-ironman, I got second, and I haven't raced since.
The first few weeks after that half-ironman were exciting, I had big plans. My race time even qualified me for USA Triathlon Nationals. I haphazardly thought, maybe I could be really good and get sponsored if I actually took my training seriously. I thought, maybe I should do a few more half ironman's, win those and then move on to full-ironman's. I hired a coach, who fueled my fire even more. "You're really good, together we can win your whole season, you'll win nationals if you train the way you need to."
I admired women (that I found through a quick google search) who dedicated their lives to triathlon racing. I wanted that life. There was even a local 'female in her 30's superstar' who qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon event. I obsessed with idea that if she could do it - there was still time for me! I stumbled upon one of her interviews...it changed me and burdened me in places I never knew existed in my own heart. She spoke about her commitment to racing and that training, along with her full time job, left her little time for other things. She was thanking her husband in the article. Thanking him for waking up at 3am so that she could go run before work, thanking him for having dinner ready by the time she got home, and thanking him for understanding that she had to go to bed promptly at 7pm if she was going to do it all again the next day. Thanking him for sacrificing his life so that she could live her dreams. Which was really sweet, don't get me wrong, but it all just sounded so incredibly selfish to me.
The thought of someone else sacrificing their life and dreams to allow me to run fast so that people will clap for me and tell me how fast I am, well, it just seemed psychotic.
I was hit hard with burden. What was the real reason I was racing? My purpose for racing wasn't racing to be healthier, it wasn't to check it off a bucket list, it wasn't even really for fun anymore. It was to win and receive the glory. I was disgusted with my own narcissism. Racing was all about me, me, me, me, me...and I was done. Racing became a sin for me, I was prideful, I was boasting, and I wanted all the glory that was always intended for God.
In Acts 12:23 it says that an angel of the Lord struck Herod so that he was eaten with worms and died because when he received applause from the people, he did not give God the glory, but rather took it for himself.
I didn't want to be Herod anymore, and I definitely didn't want to be eaten by worms. God hates human pride because it ruins or replaces something beautiful. He tells us this over and over again, and yet it is so ingrained in our culture to be prideful and self-boasting.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, should we do things for the sole purpose of glorifying ourselves? What does being prideful bring to humanity? How does it serve us and others well?
I believe in competition, I believe it drives us to do better and bigger things that we'd likely never have the stamina or gumption to achieve without it, but what is it that you're competing for? What is the thing that drives you to compete? Is it people clapping for you and telling you how great you are? Is it for pride? Or are you competing for a greater good, to honor God and give him the glory in some way?
I will race again, but I will race for a different purpose and with a different heart. It wasn't the race that caused the sin, it was the need to receive the glory and the pride that I had in my heart.
How often do we do things for our own glory? How can we better serve others and God through our actions? For starters, our intentions. I have to be conscious of my purpose.
I write this blog because I have a message I want to share, I want to encourage, motivate and inspire people, I want to lead through my words and not my pride. I do not write this blog to get tons of page views or to have other humans "like me" through social media, but tons of page views does mean that more people are able to hear and feel the message. Keeping myself in check and knowing the purpose behind growing my audience is important, because it's not about me, and it never should be. Having tons of attention can help to glorify God in an even bigger and better way, but if only one person heard the message, it's still worth the effort because every number has a name and every name matters.
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