THE Coach

 

 

person in black pants and nike sneakers

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

I feel like quitting. I’m exhausted. It’s already triple digits outside, so today’s workout is on the treadmill.  I’m bored with the running, so I go for the “hills.”

As I adjusted the incline button on my treadmill to 8.0, the words of my high school cross country coach, coach Olson, bounced around in my head.

“When approaching a hill or any obstacle on the course, do not stop.

I envision him in his standard navy colored dolphin short shorts and long sleeved cotton top, pacing back and forth in front of the forty or so of us teens awaiting the goal of this day’s training. It was 1980-something and probably around 60 degrees this afternoon in beautiful Arvada, Colorado.

 “If you must…slow down. But stopping will eliminate your momentum and you will lose all those seconds you worked so hard to get up to that point.” He would go on, his toothy grin hidden behind his bushy mustache, “In fact, if you can actually speed up on a hill, this will mentally exhaust your competitors who are stopping and slowing down.”

Seems counterintuitive. When you are exhausted, facing an uphill struggle, push harder.

I push the buttons on my treadmill up to 9.0

Coach would tell us, “The reward will be at the finish line.”

And as his words bounce around in my head, I am zapped. How do I find the endurance to keep going when all I want to do is jump off this machine and straight into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while tuning into whatever Netflix has recommended for me next?

I realize I can’t do this without Coach.

Coach Olson would also remind us, “After every up hill, there’s a down hill. That’s where you can rest and recover after you’ve pushed through the pain of the uphill.” 

🎵 “What goes up must come down”🎵

Peaks and Valleys of this work out and in this world. When will it be over? 

And where is the finish line?

And then, like the invisible sound waves traveling from the starting horn to my ears at the beginning of each cross country race, the words from my struggling mind are replaced by the Word bound in my heart.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12

Don’t stop…slow down

 I press the buttons down to 5.0

Before we ran our races, as a team we would walk the course beforehand, so we knew what we would be facing. We could envision and plan.

But on this treadmill of mandates, stay at home orders, political spin and unprecedented numbers, there is no perceptible finish line. 

How to plan and envision when I can’t even comprehend what I am facing? And yesterday was the same struggle, and tomorrow will be the same, and the next day, and the next day…

Any why? 

Why even do this workout? Not like there will be a 5K or a marathon to compete in anytime soon. The inability to fixate on a goal; the elusively of a finish line; the invisibility of what we all are facing…

What is the goal? What is that prize?  

Knowledge? Clinical trials? A vaccination? An election? Toilet paper?

Whatever it is, we are clearly not there yet. 

As I slow it down and breathe, I think, “Maybe, just maybe, it’s the ability to be face to face with my Coach and tell Him I didn’t give up?”

Maybe it’s just making it through this day without the mistakes of yesterday’s choices (Ben and Jerry’s 🙄) keeping me from pressing onward.

Only Coach knows.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Not seen: Like this enemy we are all facing; Like the buttons on my treadmill as I throw the towel over them.

Unseen: Like Pushing through the temptation to give in; Fighting against discouragement taking root in the soil of my heart; Not allowing my determination & the struggle to breed anger. 

Like the Word that breathes life back into these dry bones.

I don’t know if the  finish line will be the top of the hill, if it falls mercifully at the bottom of a hill or smack dab in the middle of the fight. 

Only Coach knows.

As I meditate on His Word, in my minds eye, I envision the party at the end of all this.

I envision the tearful, exhausted embrace as I fall into my Coach’s arms as I cross the finish line. 

Truly finding rest as He rewards we with the words, “Well done, Julie, good and faithful one.”

But I am not yet there. 

Pressing the upward buttons on my treadmill and reminding myself of Coach’s Words, an invisible spirit/force encourages me into this day:

 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

And I re-focus on the Prize awaiting me at the finish line.

The Unseen

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UNBROKEN

I requested it; waited weeks for it to come off “HOLD” from Scottsdale’s Public Library and now, I finally had it in my hands; “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. I dove in like a ten year old at a pool party on the hottest day of the summer.

I had no idea what I was in for. The Olympics, the running, the crazy boyhood life, the spirited jokes, the military preparations, the flying, the crashing, the inhumanity, the horrors of war…

And, like a terrible car crash, I couldn’t peel my eyes from it. It was heavy. Like any great novel, you are transported there. I needed to take breaks where I could stare into my own reality and recover from the events– and I was only READING it! “Unbroken” is many things, but primarily about one man, Louis Zamperini who, along with so many others, was held as a POW by the Japanese during WWII.

Each day I awoke after a night-time reading of it and somehow I’d changed; unable to return to the daily tasks of life without my perceptions being altered.

I’m willing to bet that everyone who reads this book will take away something different from it. Depending on whether you are a WWII veteran, a Japanese student, a young American, a runner, an Olympian, a mother, a brother, an atheist, an alcoholic… your life’s experiences will determine the message. Yet, there is depth and meaning in it for all. Reading Laura Hillenbrand’s flawless, detailed tale of this amazing, passionate, heroic man’s death-defying, horrendous experience, and what he did with it, leaves you changed.

The dark night of the soul—this is a journey you take reading “Unbroken.”

The dark night of the soul; Biblical teachers write of this. I’ve heard it explained referring to King David. He experienced this darkness when he refused to repent of his sins. King David, whom the Bible refers to as “a man after God’s own heart,” had committed adultery and subsequently ordered the murder of his adulteress’s husband. He experienced this darkness when he refused to repent of his sins. This “dark night of the soul” is what’s experienced when one turns away from God. Unwilling to accept circumstances, unwilling to face one’s own sins, and in capable of doing it on your own, it’s an unfathomably deep and immeasurable darkness that suffocates the soul—it’s a place without hope.

Louis Zamperini knows about the dark night of the soul—but his hell lasted way longer than a night.

To appreciate the power of the transitional experience and the depths Louis found his soul in, you must experience the story for yourself. Yet, as I amass library fines to finish my own journey through the darkness he encountered, I remind myself that the title is: “Unbroken.”

There is survival from this dark night of the soul.

Page 175 of the hardcover is where the tumult of his life came to a pivotal juncture. Laura details an encounter Louis had at a Billy Graham revival– “What God asks of men, said Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith. To know who sees him, God makes himself unseen.”

Invisible faith.

When one reads of the full on HELL that this one man endured, I can see why some might believe that there wasn’t a God looking out for these souls. And in hindsight, one can dwell in that despair or make a different choice, like Louis did when he chose to be unbroken by it and turn another direction.

It’s always a choice to search for the Unseen or to turn your face from it.

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

 

Now that my journey through this story is concluding, if I had to sum this novel up in one word, I would say HOPE. In encountering the humiliation and depravity that Louis’s journey took him on, coupled with the intense and powerful heights of this champion’s life, it’s easy to see that hope drove him on; hope was never lost; hope was His experience.

He chose to be unbroken and he saw the Unseen.

And now, as I pass on this treasure to the next awaiting soul ready to immerse in the story, I pray, as they view every sentence and watch the events be brought to life in Laura’s words, that they too, will witness the Unseen.

What will you see?