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I have always maintained an exercise routine. Historically, I’m a runner, which is something that I’ve loved doing since my teenage days. Cycling is my second favorite exercise activity. But since my back surgery, those options are now in my rearview mirror.
There were other seasons where Lucia and I participated in boot camps, or we led them for our friends. As I was reflecting on our “boot camp days” recently, it reminded me of one of those “most embarrassing moments” that the Lord used to teach me humility. Again.
The alarm went off at 4:45 AM. I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to go. The temptation to roll over was profoundly strong, but by the grace of God, I rolled out and prepared to engage another cold day. I got up, though there were lingering doubts about what I was doing. It was day two of my six-week boot camp training.
I signed up to be part of a two-day-a-week for six weeks boot camp course with 15 other crazy strangers. We exercised, non-stop from 5:15 to 6:15 in the morning. Crunches, push-ups, running, suicides, crab crawls, bear crawls and other challenging exercises that drive you to the limits of your physical ability.
Yesterday after 45-minutes of relentless, non-stop exercising we ran to the other side of the public school building. As my instructor says, “No one walks in boot camp!” We run everywhere, so off to the soccer field to do a bear crawl across it and a crab crawl all the way back.
The bear crawl is on all-fours, rear end down, crawling across the field with nothing touching the ground but your hands and feet. The crab crawl is the same thing, but it is crawling backward and upside down (belly up) on your hands and feet.
About a third of the way through the bear crawl I started cheating; I got up and walked to the end of the field. When I got to the end, I stood and watched aghast as my out-of-shape “friends” were persevering, very slowly while stopping along the way. But never giving up until they made it to where I was standing.
I was embarrassed.
Once everyone was across the soccer field, we had to crab crawl back to our original starting point. I decided this time that I would not cheat or cut corners. My pride was stronger than my sensibilities.
I got down with my 15 friends and began to crawl backward. I kept up with them for the first 20 feet or so, but then they started inching away. Fifteen minutes later I was the only one on the field and only halfway across it.
I was humiliated.
These ladies were done, standing, drinking their water, and swapping kid stories. I was crawling. Stopping. Sitting. Crawling. Repeat. My hands were frozen as they pressed into the cold ground. My arms were melted butter, burning and unable to hold me up anymore. I was done, but too proud not to finish.
And have mercy on those who doubt. – Jude 23
Then my instructor came out and began to crawl with me, encouraging me to finish, appealing to me not to give up. Then a lady came out and got in front of me and started to crawl with me, encouraging me along the way.
Then another guy came out and spontaneously the whole team came out and got on the ground and they re-crawled the distance with me until I made it to our starting point. The ninety and nine came out to help the one struggling (crawling) sheep. (See Luke 15:1-7)
It was stunning compassion.
Everything in me wanted to stop. It was not worth the pain. My male ego plummeted. It was a complete embarrassment, and the most humiliated I had been in a long time. All of those “out-of-shape ladies” were in better shape than me. They looked better, did better and were better. I was the worst person in the group (1 Timothy 1:15).
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14
On the way home, I began to reflect on several struggling people that I have had the privilege to serve in their sanctification. My heart went out to them, and my respect for them was “through the roof” as I reflected on my early morning inabilities.
I know it is hard for you. I know it doesn’t seem worth it at times to persevere. And sometimes you say,
What in the world am I doing? It is easier to roll over and sleep for another hour. This plan is too hard! And who cares?
But you come anyway. You fight through it, and you gain victory bit by bit.
I want to be that person running onto the field, encouraging the struggler who is on the verge of giving up. I want to get on the cold, hard, wet grass and crawl with you. I want to tell you that we can do this, and by the grace of God, we will finish this thing. I echo Paul’s words in Philippians 1:3-6 when I think of my fellow-strugglers.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
I respect you. I’m grateful to God to have a small role to play in your sanctification–your spiritual battle that brings Christlike shape to your life. Thank you for your trust in what God can do through this ministry!