Life is Like a Tough Mudder Obstacle Course!

As a runner, I’m ingrained with a natural instinct to do two things:

1. Avoid puddles (You’re supposed to go around them, not through them!)

2. Steer clear of anything blocking my path. (You gotta keep up your pace without having to stop!)

While tackling my first Tough Mudder recently, both those instincts went out the window.

I’m wired to write about the parallels between running and our Christian faith journey. Yet after completing a 10 mile muddy course with military-style obstacles, my eyes were opened with new insight.

Life is really more like a muddy obstacle course!

PITFALL:   30 yards of wading through a murky-muddy wetland with sudden drop offs.  The first few steps you’re sloshing in shin-level water.  But looks can be deceiving. Suddenly you plunge into deeper water, almost to your waist.  You have no idea if the next step will be on firm ground or sinking deeper into the unknown.

Ever feel like this in your life? From your human perspective, all seems well. You think you’re on level ground, but then out of no where….you plunge into the unknown, your feet no longer on firm ground.

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But here’s our hope…

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2

 

BIRTH CANAL: This obstacle forces you to crawl under a deceptively heavy water-filled plastic liner.  The pressure weighing down on me felt so overwhelming!  It forced you to push back up and slowly inch your way to the light at the other side.

Ever feel like the weight of stress is pinning you down? Like you can’t even breathe? The pressures of this life feel overwhelming at times and the only way to get through them is to humble yourself. In your humility you crawl one step at a time until you get on the other side.

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Here’s our hope….

2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but never destroyed.”

 

BERLIN WALLS: These were 10-foot walls you had to climb over. One of the toughest obstacles for me, every time I came face-to-face with one I muttered, I can’t do this one. There’s no way I’m gonna climb over this wall!  And the truth was that I could NOT climb those walls.

Not alone.

But with the help of other people, I could–and did–get over those walls! I had to be lifted up by stronger bodies.  Once I was at the top of the wall, I felt fear grip me. I’m gonna fall! I don’t know what to do next!  But other people at the top of the wall reassured me I was safe. Once my legs were over the top of the wall and I felt myself being lowered to the ground, my fear subsided.

Ever feel like you’ve hit a wall in your life? Something stops you abruptly in your tracks. It stares you in the face, screaming full force:

Impossible! Insurmountable! Never! There’s no way!

Many challenges we face in this life are too difficult to face alone. Without support from others, we simply wouldn’t make it. But you have to be willing to ask. You have to hold out your hand and admit you’re struggling. God uses other people to carry us through our difficult times!

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Here’s our hope…

Psalm 18:29 “…with my God I can scale a wall.”

 

ARCTIC ENEMA: This is Tough Mudder’s signature ice bath obstacle! You plunge down a slippery slide into ice-cold water. When I say cold, I’m talking like 34 degrees cold. This is one of the obstacles I feared the most.

You don’t train for this. You just do it.

It’s more mental than physical. I can honestly say that thinking about this one and imagining what it would be like was more gripping than actually experiencing it. 

It literally takes your breath away. You come up out of the ice-cold water almost paralyzed. Every part of your body is shaking and it takes every ounce of energy you have to get out. My brother’s advice to me on this rang true in my mind:

Whatever you do, don’t stop and scream about how cold it is. Just keep moving and get out as quick as you can.

There are many challenges in life we can prepare for. We can seek advice on marriage, parenting and serving others. We can attend classes, read books and talk to people in order to equip ourselves for something that lies ahead.

But some things in life we simply can’t prepare for. Things that literally knock the breath out of us. Things that leave us feeling paralyzed all over. Things that bring shivers to every fiber of our soul.

The nugget of wisdom is this:

KEEP MOVING.

DON’T STOP.

JUST KEEP GOING UNTIL YOU’RE ON THE OTHER SIDE.

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Here’s our hope…

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

 

MUD MILE: This obstacle was the muddiest! You had to crawl over multiple mounds of mud and wade through waist-deep water in between each one. The most difficult thing about this was getting out of the water. In some places there were no footholds to climb up on. With no way to pull yourself up out of the murky mess, someone else had to lend a hand and pull you out.

Sometimes our lives are really messy. Dirty. Ugly.

We’re in over our head and there’s no way to pull ourselves out of the messes we’ve made. The man pulling the woman out of the muddy water is a powerful picture of how God reaches down and pulls us out of the mud and mire we’ve wallowed in.

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Here’s our hope…

Psalm 69:1-2 “Save me, Oh God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.”

 

CARRY YOUR WOOD: As a team, we had to carry a heavy log on our shoulders through mud and over two separate walls. This was one of those challenges requiring a team effort. No matter how strong, you could never do this alone.

Sometimes we are faced with heavy burdens we simply can not carry on our own. As the body of Christ, we walk alongside each other and help to lift the burdens of those who are feeling weary and overwhelmed.

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Here’s our hope…

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

ELECTRO-SHOCK: Approaching the final obstacle of the Tough Mudder, I braced myself. Live wires hung over a field of mud with hay bales blocking my way. Some people can run through this and barely get shocked while others get knocked to the ground.

This is another obstacle you can’t train for. You just have to get through it.

The next 40 seconds were a blur. Just 10 seconds in, I got jolted and knocked to the ground. My entire body went limp. My face plunged into the muddy water. Instead of standing up and traversing the rest of the way, I stayed low on the ground and swam the rest of the way through. My eyes dripping with mud, I could barely see. My burning eyes and blurred vision lasted another hour until I got them cleaned out by medical personnel. (I went out with a bang!)

Some trials in our lives utterly knock us to our feet. We may watch others go through similar challenges unaffected, but because we are uniquely created, our experience may look and feel very different.  Often times in the middle of a difficult challenge, our vision is cloudy. We can’t see in front of us. Painful circumstances sting our heart and we just HURT.

With time we begin to see more clearly. With prayer we continue to seek God. And with the love of others, we get on the other side.

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Here’s our hope…..

Isaiah 40:30 “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

With any of the obstacles I trudged through, the key was this:

Keep on going.

Don’t stop.

Someone’s got your back!

Whatever obstacle you find yourself in today, dear friends, let me encourage you to keep going. With your eyes fixed on Jesus, he’s got your back.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

I Want an Exact Answer!!

Math appeals to my daughter because each problem has only one correct answer. Cut and dry. Two plus two equals four. No need to waver back and forth. You’re either right or wrong.

But when it comes to something subjective that involves reflection or opinion…..she can fall apart. In response to simply reading a few paragraphs in a book and giving a summary in her own words, the drama begins…..

“I don’t know what to put down for my answer!” “I don’t know what to do!” “I’m not sure about this!” “I’m just gonna leave it blank!”

What I think is going on is this: She’s really asking the question “What if I get this wrong? What if this isn’t right?” “What if I fail?” 

I get frustrated with her and tell her to calm down. I try to explain the difference between an exact answer and an acceptable answer. Math is absolute….one correct answer. Writing a one sentence summary of a paragraph will look different for each student. But all the answers will be acceptable.

After the drama settles down, she makes an attempt. Sometimes the first word can be the hardest. But once she steps out and starts writing, it makes more sense. It comes together. And she can finally accept the fact that her answer will be different from her friends. Her unique answer reflects who she is.

God whispers to my heart in that moment: Sometimes you want an exact answer for something, Lisa. You want to know precisely step-by-step how to handle something. You stand still and become paralyzed because you’re afraid of failing. 

There are some things in God’s word that are absolutes. If we were to ask these questions, there would be an exact answer:

Should we murder? NO

Should we steal? NO

Should we commit adultery? NO

But what about this one: Are we commanded to love our neighbor? YES

But what does that look like? Will everyone’s answer look the same here?  Or will each person follow through according to the gifts God has given them?

Here are some ways we can show love: Help someone with yard work. Invite a friend over for coffee. Write an encouraging note. Write a check to meet a financial need. Give a hug. Take the time to listen. Spend quality time with a loved one. Buy a special gift. Wash someone’s car. The list goes on…..

There is not just one way to show love. Love according to how God has wired you. Love with a passion that only you can give. Let your unique love flow through you to the people in your corner of the world.

The way in which you show love will look different from those around you. Not everyone will have the same exact answer for this command to love.

But to do nothing?  To stand still–as if paralyzed–for fear of getting it wrong? That would be a wrong answer for sure. To do nothing is to disobey this greatest command from Jesus.

So what about you, dear friend? What are you doing to show love? Are you standing still waiting for an exact answer? Waiting for God to tell you step-by-step what to do for someone? I urge you to pray and step out of this mode of thinking and simply ask God to open your eyes.

To see your children in front of you.

To see your neighbors you might rarely speak to.

To see your co-workers.

To see those friends from the gym.

To see those homeless people with the cardboard signs.

To see the single moms who are barely making it.

And yes….even the people who have wounded us.

When our eyes are truly open, we can then choose to love freely from our heart. We can love with the gifts God has blessed us with. It is far better to love by stepping out in fear of the unknown–even if we stumble–than to stand still doing nothing….waiting for some magical answer to appear before us.

We are all called to love. And when we each follow through with our unique way of loving, this is the body of Christ! And that is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Mark 12:31 “…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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There’s a Snake in My Boat!

My husband docked our boat at the marina just as he always does. As avid boaters, we have this routine down to a science. While my daughter and I were in the restroom, Jim made final preparations so we could take off quickly upon our return. One of the last things he usually does is retrieve a comfy chair-pad from the storage compartment under the  back seat of the boat.  As he lifted the lid of the storage compartment, he jumped back rather quickly.  His eyes widened in disbelief and fear spread over his entire face. He announced to me with a quick gasp, “There’s a snake in there!”

At this point, even when I heard the word snake, I was envisioning a small snake. The kind of garter snake we sometimes find on our wooded property. Jim suddenly asked for help from three men docking a boat next to ours. Now most men do not usually ask for help for anything they think they can handle on their own. This was suddenly a red flag to me! If he’s asking for help, this must be a big deal. Everything happened so quickly it was a blur. For a second before all this chaos broke out, I thought I’d grab my phone (which was in the boat) and take a quick picture to capture this moment in time. It didn’t happen.

My husband–along with three other strong men–were struggling to corner this snake in the storage compartment of our boat. The snake continued to slither this way and that way, stubbornly refusing to be caught. Before I knew what was happening, Jim had courageously grabbed that snake by its tail and slung it with all his might into the lake. As he pulled it up out of the boat, this snake was completely stretched out in mid-air. It was no small garter snake by any means.

More than likely a rat snake…..about five feet long!

The strong men who’d at first agreed to help Jim, now quickly shrunk back in fear, almost knocking each other into the water. And of course I contributed my part in all this chaos, letting out a blood-curdling scream.

Why are we so afraid of snakes? Why do these unique creatures stop us in our tracks, leaving us feeling paralyzed?

In the beginning before the fall of mankind, it is speculated that the snake was a beautiful creature. After sin entered the world God said to Satan, “Because you have done this, on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:14)

God continues to give more detail about the future effect of snakes on mankind when he says, “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring.” (Genesis 3:15)

I couldn’t agree more with those profound words because there was much hostility between the humans on the dock and a pesky snake in our boat last week!!

Moses exhibited fear when God miraculously turned his staff into a snake  “…so he threw it on the ground and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.” (Exodus 4:3) Did you catch that? Even though God was right there with him, Moses still fled from the snake! (This verse should be comforting to those three strong men who shrunk back when Jim yanked the snake out of our boat!)

But there is one last scripture I’d like to focus on when it comes to snakes. This one trumps all the other ones I’ve mentioned so far. Isaiah prophesies about what our lives will be like when Christ reigns in Heaven.

Isaiah 11:8 “The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand in the viper’s nest.”

Cobras and Vipers! Really? Can you imagine? An infant playing near a snake–and not just any snake…..a cobra! The thought of a mother watching her child play with a snake is something I just can’t fathom. Playing with a snake as if it were a kitten or puppy.

But that is something as Christ followers we have to look forward to. In God’s perfect kingdom where every creature is restored as it once was in the Garden of Eden. And best of all, God will live among us–face to face. Powerful truth like this gives me a renewed hope. It confirms my faith. It satisfies my soul.

Take comfort in the fact that God dispels all fears and nothing will be feared in Heaven.

(In the meantime, the Preuett family will continue to check their boat carefully for any signs of snakes!!)

1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out all fear…”

rat snake

Never Say Never!

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The first time I ran a half marathon, I found myself laughing at a certain point in the race. When runners get to mile marker #9, something drastic happens. Up until this point, everyone is running on the same course, half-marathoners and full-marathoners together. Everyone is mixed in and you don’t know who is running which race. You’d never know just by looking at them. But then at mile marker #9 the course literally is divided. It splits down the middle of an intersection. The half-marathoners turn left and the full-marathoners turn right. This is where I found myself laughing out loud and thinking very clear:

There is no way I’d ever run a full marathon! I could NEVER do that! Heck, I don’t know if I will even make it through the next 4 miles to complete this race! Ha! Those people are crazy! I don’t understand why or how they do it.

Fast forward four years and six half marathons later.  I’d registered for a full marathon after a stirring in my heart. It was time for a new challenge. Before I knew it, there I was! Standing at the start line of my first marathon.

I was approaching mile marker #9, the crucial turning point where the race split. The bright orange warning signs flashed in front of me. A man blasted through a megaphone, “Attention runners! Half-marathoners go left! Marathoners go right! Runners chaotically dashed from one side to the other. Two runners brushed up against me. merging to the left. And then the truth hit me hard: I was now running on the right side of the road…with fewer people. I glanced over my left shoulder, watching the half-marathoners fade out of my sight. Only 4 more miles and they’d cross their finish line. But for me, I had 17 more to go! At first a rush of excitement ignited my mind as I ventured into this new challenge. But when it quickly wore off, that’s when it hit me:

I was attempting something I said I’d NEVER do!

How many times in our lives have we dug our feet in the sand exclaiming,

I will NEVER do that!

I could NEVER walk a path like hers!

I’d NEVER survive a trial like that.

But then later you find yourself walking that forbidden path. The one you said you’d never take a step onto. Maybe God has called you out of your comfort zone and you’re headed into a season of life you never dreamed you’d find yourself. Or maybe there’s an area of your life you’re clinging too tightly to, refusing to let go. Perhaps you’re gripped with grief or fear because of an unexpected trial.

I’ll never be able to lose weight; It’s just too hard.
I will never home school; I don’t have the patience for that. 
I could never leave my hometown; I’ve lived here my whole life.
I could never invite my neighbor to church; I couldn’t handle the rejection.
I could never consider adoption; I’m fine with the family I have.

I could NEVER ___________________?

Fill in the blank. What is it for you?

It’s possible that your “I could never” is a fear lurking in the deepest part of your heart. If that’s the case, surrender your fear to Jesus and refuse to let the enemy rob you of joy. Maybe your “I could never” is something God is nudging you towards, requiring a deeper trust. Whatever it may be, God promises to be with us through it all. In the face of your “I could never”, let me point you to a truth where God uses the word NEVER.  To those who are His followers, He promises to NEVER leave us or forsake us. Instead of focusing on your “never”, embrace the truth of His”never”!

READY? Have you ever done something after you said you’d never do it? What caused you to step out and change your mind? Identify an aspect of your life you’re saying never to right now. Ask God to clarify whether it’s fear speaking or his gentle nudge.

GET SET. Hebrews 13:5  “…be content with what you have because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

GO! Heavenly Father, help me to trust you when my flesh says “Never”. When I’m tempted to let fear grip my heart, help me step out in faith and trust you. Help me not to worry about future trials, but to rest in the assurance that you’ll be with me when those times come. Thank you for the promise of never leaving me! Amen.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett