The Gym Class Mile: What I didn't learn about Patient Endurance
Updated: Dec 28, 2020
My internal dictionary has a video next to these words, which can also be cross-referenced with other mental searches of my memory:
High school gym class.
Presidential Fitness Test.
The dreaded mile.
This abominable day was the WORST day of every single school year. It required something that I did not (in any way, shape, or form) possess at the time.
I needed patience because I preferred a tidy, little sprint, full of all-out intensity, push hard and stop! Give me an intense, explosive experience any day, but please do not ask me to slo o o o wly, inte n n n ntionally make my way toward something.
And then call out the time at the end. Really?
I needed endurance because it was four laps! Sooooooo many! This required thinking, planning, and spacing out energy for the last push when the finish line was finally in sight.
I had observed other people nearing the finish line, rounding toward the last stretch: despite pain, sweat, muscle fatigue, and lack of oxygen, those perplexing people see the finish line and, well . . . go faster!
That response is a mystery to me.
(Any time I try to run, even to this day, I am one step from walking. I want to stop the entire time. I think that the idea of endorphins is made up by annoying, happy joggers who make running look like a blissful frolic on a Disney movie, springs attached to their feet.)
Every year on the foreboding day of the timed mile, I always ended up somewhere in the middle of the runners.
Ahead of me were the over-achiever, sporty girls who were somehow finished already and decided it was a good idea to cheer on the rest of us leftovers. Smiling, they were yelling ridiculous phrases like, “You got this!”
Behind me were the people who didn’t even bother trying. Wearing flip-flops or overcoats to gym class that day, they were basically slinking their way to the end. Not the kind of group that makes you feel like you’re really ahead at all.
My instinct at the end of the last lap, that very last curve and final straightaway only produced in me one thought: “This is good enough.”
And I would . . . slow down . . . to a jog . . . then . . . walk. Let the middle stragglers pass me and feel like they were beating someone! It was my role as an encourager!
The gym teacher would yell out my time and I would think, “Well, I mean, that’s not quite right. If I would’ve kept running I would’ve been here about 20 seconds earlier.” I would subtract 20-30 seconds and, in my mind, claim it as my finishing time. That is what I did every single year.
Pathetic, I know. I’m being vulnerable.
But something changed my junior year!
For some reason that I still can’t recall, I decided I was going to run the entire way. Yes! I would!
Three and a half laps in, the time I usually began to slow down, I went against my body, mind and soul and I KEPT RUNNING!
Spoiler alert: There is no spiritual lesson about patient endurance paying off. We are entering the section about the utter fail.
Somewhere between that fated, final curve and the finish line, I literally blacked out.
I couldn’t see. But I kept running. I started yelling out between ragged intakes of air, “I can’t see!” I could hear my gym teacher (seriously, his name was Mr. Wolf) calling to me, yelling out to keep going, that I was almost there.
“But I can’t see!”
Don’t imagine a confident runner in this scene. At this point, I am fumbling and stumbling my way toward his voice. My own words are barely making their way out of my lips as my lungs suck in incredible amounts of oxygen. The maddening cheer from the softball girls has stopped.
Sweat pouring, heart pounding, and small bursts of panicked thoughts were sending out warning signals, all insisting that I may be having an aneurism—or something else about to explode in my brain that would certainly cause my premature death.
My stomach began churning and cramping. As I crossed the finish line, I was bent over, arms wrapped around my waist.
And I kept running. . .
. . . to the trash can I knew was near the stands.
My vision fading in and out, I could see it; the flies buzzing around the accumulated stench inside. Falling against the hot, metal, rusty container and shoving my head down as far as I could, I puked up my guts.
And simultaneously started my period.
The puking continued through the ugly crying and, without asking permission (“seriously, screw this!”), I made my way through the air conditioned hallway of my high school. Sweat-crusted hair drying to my forehead, smeared mascara, disgusting, smelly gym clothes, and vomit breath.
Everyone who passed me or glanced up from their desk was met with a death glare: “Don’t say a word. I will kill you. Forget what you have seen here.”
I found my boyfriend’s art class and, hanging onto at the doorframe, tears still streaming, I begged him to take me home.
THAT is the example of patient endurance from my early life. Life before Jesus. It is what I continued to point back to as the explanation and stubborn reason for two things: running is a horrible sport and patient endurance is simply not a part of my DNA.
But because of Him, I am no longer that girl.
I don’t serve a God who is limited by my original DNA, by my experience, by my nature OR my nurture. He is in the business of transforming. And I am no longer trapped in a this-is-good-enough attitude.
(But honestly, I still don’t like running. Feelings border on hatred, not gonna lie.)
“No . . . I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race . . .”
(Philippians 3: 13-14a NLT).
“. . . you will be strengthened with all his glorious power
so you will have all
the endurance and patience you need” (Colossians 1:11a NLT).
What the translations have to say:
NLT: Patient Endurance
RSV, NASB: Steadfastness
J.B. Phillips: the ability to endure
The Message: the strength to stick it out
over the long haul
§ Laughing matters! Write about a complete fail. Now when you look back, are there some truths that God can reveal about Himself/yourself within this story? Include them.
§ Write about a time you gave up. Except, insert Jesus into the exact moment you quit or gave into the struggle. Describe how he looks at you, how he approaches you, how he sits with you. What would he say to you? Maybe write this as a dialogue or a poem.
§ “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (James 5:7). Where do you need this now in your life? Write a prayer and ask Him for patient endurance. What is His will for you today? Now? What do you hope to receive from Him?
§ Respond to this quote: “Endurance doesn’t mean the patience which sits down and accepts things, but the patience which masters them . . . it is a determination, unhurrying and undelaying which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected.”
‑William Barclay, a Professor, Theologian, Author, and Greek Scholar at the University of Glasgow in Scotland (1907-1978)
§ Remember who you were before you came face-to-face with Jesus and write about or draw/paint/sketch the part of you that has been transformed into something new—something that the people who know you now think is simply a part of your character. But you know the truth . . .
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