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Because I Can

September 29, 2011

Wednesday night dinners at church are always an adventure. They become a chance to check in with everyone midweek and see how things are going. They are also a chance for some great conversations that begin as small talk to develop into more serious topics. And for whatever reason, people seem especially interested in seeing and commenting on what the pastor puts on her plate. Since I started training for triathlons a few months ago, these comments about my eating habits have become much more frequent. “Is that sweet tea on your training plan?” Well, no, actually it’s not. “Here, take a brownie for dessert. You’ll just burn it all off on the bike.”

But the question that got me really thinking was when I was heading out of dinner to teach Bible study, and someone simply asked, “Why do you do it?”

Why do I do triathlons? Well, there are a lot of reasons for that. But I don’t think he wanted to hear about the health benefits, the supportive community, making and achieving goals, etc. It seemed he wanted the short and simple answer. So I replied, “Because I can!”

This wasn’t motivation enough for him, so he pushed further. “But you’ve already done one before, so you know you can do it.” Well, that’s true I guess. I know I can do it. But when I said “because I can” I was thinking a little more deeply than that. It’s not just about knowing I am physically able to do something. It’s about being grateful for those physical abilities and praising God by using those gifts and blessings.

As I’ve developed this new discipline of working out and training, I have adopted a theme scripture that helps me through the particularly tough days. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). In other words: I know I can, I know I can.

There are several moments that stand out to me as I think about all that I am grateful I can do. Before we start a group bike ride on Sunday afternoons, we pray together and give thanks for the chance to ride. I always find myself thankful for strong legs and lungs that allow me to do what I love. When I run on my own through a wooded park or trail, I am awed and amazed at the beauty of God’s creation. It’s not uncommon to see deer or rabbits, a glowing sunset, or feel a cool breeze. All of these make me grateful to be a part of creation.

It wasn’t long ago that I was visiting my grandmother in the hospital. She had just come through a heart catheterization and was waiting to hear how strongly her heart was functioning. The results came back with mixed reviews but would require further surgery in the future. It was great inspiration to continue making my heart and cardiovascular health a priority through exercise and healthy eating. I wanted to be strong for her.

When I was running the Peachtree Road Race for the first time this past Fourth of July, I was getting a little worn out after the first few miles. But as I ran past the Shepherd Spinal CenterI saw a huge row of patients in wheelchairs and propped up on gurneys, waving and clapping and cheering on the runners. Instead of focusing on their illness or injury, they were out there supporting others with smiles on their faces. I gained a renewed sense of energy and felt my legs grow stronger as I thanked God once more for the ability to run.

Just last week I participated in the Bike MS: Cox Atlanta Ride. It was a fundraiser to raise research money and awareness to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis. I joined the team Unis Libris who has been participating for years, and hate to admit that I saw it mostly as another opportunity to ride and get some training in. However, once I started raising money and meeting other riders, sponsors, and survivors of MS, my heart was changed once more. I was touched by the stories of people whose family members or friends had died from the horrible disease. I met people who were currently diagnosed or riding for their loved ones and heard the courage and determination in their voices. There were so many stories that I will continue sharing in my next entry and include how I have personally been affected by the disease. I realized that a little bit of pain and soreness in my quads after a 60 mile bike ride was nothing in comparison to the pain and discomfort many had on a daily basis as they fought MS. So once again, I gave thanks.

In response to the question, “Why do you do it?” the short answer is, “Because I can.” But in reality running, biking, swimming and every movement of every day is a constant reminder of the strength I gain from Christ who gives me strength. It is a strength that comes physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually as I praise God for getting me through each day, each task, each hardship, and each joy. With the strength of Christ, what can you do?

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