A couple weeks ago 40 of us ran the Indy Mini Marathon in honor of Amanda. This was one of Amanda’s favorite things to do in Indy every year. In fact, two years ago she ran it while she was 6 months pregnant with Weston! That’s 13.1 miles while carrying a developing baby!! She was incredible! Running this race together each year availed us fresh memories and new friendships. So, needless to say, as I walked to my starting corral without Amanda I felt overcome with nostalgia and sorrow. Despite the waves of emotion, I determined this year’s race was going to be special. We had 40 people in #ForIndy t-shirts running in honor of Amanda. Our Resonate Worship band was one of the featured bands along the route. 50 more of our Resonate volunteers signed up to pass out gatorade to runners. I was on track to post a personal record by running a faster time than I’d ever run a half-marathon. This year was going to be special!
But I didn’t finish. As I crossed mile six I felt a snap in my left calf muscle and that was the end of the mini for me.
I have run a half dozen half marathons and one full marathon. I have never had trouble finishing. I trained harder for this one than I have ever trained for a race. My heart was more invested in this one than any of the other’s before. But I didn’t finish.
I think the injury stemmed from a couple Crossfit workouts in Israel coupled with a long run the next day. I began feeling a tightness in my calf on that run, and I've been pushing through the pain ever since. But I think I pushed it too hard.
As soon as I felt the snap in my leg, I stumbled over to the side of the road. I tried stretching it. I tried massaging it. I tried walking it off. The harder I tried, the worse the tightness and pain got. I finally had one of the guys from the EMS crew look at it. “I wouldn’t risk it,” he told me. “It’s so tight right now you could very well tear it if you try to keep going."
I was furious. Not only was I that guy who was crouched over on the sidewalk nursing his leg while everyone else cruised by with smiles on their faces, I was supposed to be running this one in honor of Amanda! How could I not finish? I had no other choice but to begin the long two mile walk - or hobble - back to my car and acquiesce to the fact that I wasn’t going to finish this one.
While walking back Jesus and I exchanged some words. Well, it’s probably more accurate to say I vented out loud to Him and He listened. When I was done venting I felt the still, small voice of the Lord whisper to me, “Davey, you need to learn when it’s appropriate to push through pain, and when you should admit you’re hurt."
When He whispered to my heart, I knew exactly what He meant. He wanted me to learn a valuable emotional lesson through a physical occurance. Let me explain.
As a former college athlete, I recognize there are times you have to push through pain. In fact growth happens when we're confronted by pain thresholds and we push through them. Think about the old adage, “no pain, no gain.” This is exactly what people are trying to communicate when they use this phrase. If you want to grow, you have to be willing to endure pain. Some of the greatest athletes of all time pushed through pain during the most pivotal moments of their career. During a 1997 NBA Finals game, Michael Jordan put up incredible stats on a night he could barely stand up because he had the flu. In game 6 of the 2004 ALCS Curt Shilling put up a strong 7-inning pitching performance with a torn tendon in his ankle. And of course none of us can forget the 1996 Olympic Games when with a sprained ankle Kerri Strug landed the vault on one leg and scored a 9.712 to catapult the U.S. Gymnastics team to a Gold Medal.
As a Type-A, High D, former athlete my default mode of operation is “push through the pain” - even emotionally. Shortly after Amanda was killed I had many people tell me I shouldn’t make any big decisions right away. I understand what they were trying to say, that grief and shock would cloud my judgement and ability to make wise decisions. Unfortunately I didn’t have that luxury. I had a 15-month-old who needed stability and a very present father. I had no place to live as my home had become a crime scene. I was receiving thousands of requests to plaster my face all over the news and other media outlets. I still had a growing church congregation that was trying to deal with the loss of their good friend and pastor’s wife. Big decisions were unavoidable.
So on some level, I tried to push through the pain. I’ve never been good at admitting when I need help or when I’m hurt. And now, emotionally, I wasn’t just hurt. I was crippled. I felt like I had lost a limb, but I was still expecting myself to run a race!
My counselor walked me through Isaiah 30 during my time with him. He wanted me to lean into verse 15:
"In repentance and rest you will be saved; in quietness and in trust will be your strength."
Scripture says my strength is going to come from quietness, trust, and rest! I usually think of strength being a result of working, striving, trying, pushing, and training. Not quietness, trust and rest! The problem is, however, when I'm pushing through the pain I am never still enough to hear what God is trying to teach me in that circumstance.
I remember one of the best things my counselor told me was this:
When Christ is the center of your life, self-care is not SELFISH, it’s STEWARDSHIP.
He helped me realize that over the course of this next year it would be imperative for me to push through pain in some seasons, and pull back in others. That the best thing for me and for the people I lead is learning how to discern the appropriate response for the season. Pulling back in some seasons isn’t giving up. It's putting the oxygen mask on myself first so I can help someone else with theirs. It’s ensuring I stay in the game. It’s admitting that I can’t finish this race so that I'm able to run the next race, and the next one after that, and the one after that.
On that day limping back to my car, the Lord left me with this thought, “Davey, I have plenty more races for you to run in this lifetime. Right now you're hurt. Rest up. Get healthy. Let me heal you. And then let’s go change the world."