19 June 2013
What's Your Tough Mudder?
When was the last time you set an audacious goal for yourself—when you committed yourself to something you weren’t sure you could actually do?
Last month I participated in the Tough Mudder. It’s a 10 mile course with 20 obstacles that include, among other things, lots of crawling, climbing, and jumping into freezing cold water.
It’s designed by British Special Forces and described as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” You have to climb over an eight-foot wall just to get into the starting area, for God’s sake! And not for nothing, the day of our Tough Mudder was over 90 degrees. So, it is a beast. (Check out the video below for a taste.)
I decided to do the Mudder as a way to motivate myself to get back into great shape. And, honestly, to make me feel better about turning 40 next year.
So, I committed myself to this crazy thing—and to doing something I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. I trained like crazy for five months—running, swimming, suspension training, kettlebells, weight lifting. Many early mornings and many late nights at the Y. It took our team just under three hours to complete the course, but we did it. I finished.
A big part of the Tough Mudder is about confronting fears, whether its jumping off a 20-foot high platform into water below, crawling through dark underground tunnels, or running through electroshocks. And that fear can either paralyze us or it can propel us. That is the fundamental lesson of the Tough Mudder.
What Is Possible
It is less about the physical conditioning (though you definitely need it) and more about confronting your limits and your fears. I wonder, in ministry, how willing we are to risk failure and to push ourselves beyond what we perceive as our limits, both as congregations and ministry leaders. Are we willing to challenge what we think it possible, and to be surprised by what we can do?
What I experienced at the Mudder was the exhilaration in the not knowing, in seeing what was possible, what I was capable of. The uncertainty. The unknown. These are things we often have a hard time embracing in ministry, but that’s really where the magic happens.
And even if you don’t quite reach your goal, there is so much value in the process of trying. By the time the Mudder rolled around, it felt like the icing on the cake, because I had grown so much in the process of preparing for it. I would have been sorely disappointed if I hadn’t finished, but there was so much more to it than just that one day.
What would it look like for you to try to push beyond your perceived limits: physically, vocationally, spiritually? What are the unconscious, unspoken limits you put on yourself?
It Takes a Team
I seem to be specializing in this kind of challenge of late. I had the same experience when I decided to co-author Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible with Elizabeth Drescher. I wasn’t sure I could do that either. I wasn’t sure my preparation would be enough. I had to stretch my abilities and gifts, and confront my weaknesses.
I recently listened to a sermon I preached three weeks into writing Click where I described the anxiety I was experiencing, how a strength (writing) could suddenly feel like a weakness and learning to trust myself and God and just to keep writing. This past year I changed calls, moving from a pastoral to corporate-sized congregation, with different people, rhythms, pace, structures, and vision. It’s pushing me to grow in new ways. I have to say, its been quite a three-year run of facing down my perceived limits and pushing through them.
The best part of the Tough Mudder was the teamwork and comradery. As they say, “its not a race, its a challenge.” You go through it with a team and I had a great one. We helped each other (and other participants) over and through obstacles. We watched, cheered, encouraged each other. We ran ahead together, we stayed behind together and high-fives abounded after every obstacle. The best part of the whole thing was doing it together.
Likewise, The most important part of my journey has been partnering with people to help me get there. My family, my co-author, my editor, my colleagues, and you, my friends and readers. And I am so incredibly grateful. Nobody gets there on their own. It takes a team and I have a great one. So, I encourage you to think big and dream audacious dreams, confront your limits, surprise yourself. Trust yourself, others, and God. And let me know how I can help.