There are those times in life when you ask yourself “What am I doing here?” It seems that the older I get, the more I tend to ask myself this question. The complexities of life often overwhelm my simple mind, leading to a restless night’s sleep or a sudden urge to leave the country with Julie, and fall off the map for a while.
We are going on vacation in a little less than a month now, and I can’t wait for the 8 days of escape. It’s not that I hate my life or my job, as much as it is that I need some time away to hit the ‘reset’ button on a few things. Leave all of the complexities aside, spend some time with my wife in the Pacific Northwest exploring God’s creation.
I think in life we have a tendency to really take simple things and keep adding layer upon layer of complexity, until we are looking at that once simple object through a hazy glass pane about a mile thick. Sometimes it takes a giant step backwards to realize what it was about that thing that excited us in the first place.
A classic example of this was one of my favorite races this past weekend here in San Diego. I was not performing to my peak this year, but it was all relative. My performance last year was stellar and I had trained to my personal peak. An amazing thing happens when you really succeed, and you set the bar higher than you ever thought possible. Accomplishment- yes. But you start to wonder how much better you can do next time. Personal accomplishment is clouded by competitive pride.
I had already finished the swim and the bike and I was starting my 10K run when, as usual, the pain set in on my legs. The question of “what am I doing here?” went through my mind as it often does about this point in the race. “I am not on pace to beat last year’s record” “I hope I still beat my rivals”
Running out onto Harbor Island I rounded the turn to look back on the unobstructed view of Downtown and the San Diego bay. “This is what it’s all about” the guy running next to me said. “Can you believe this view?”
This is when it hit me. This once simple sport that I have grown to love has been clowded by layer upon layer of “stuff”. Bike equipment, training plans, aero helmets, wetsuits, masters swimming, competitive ego, faster shoes, drills, money, and a desire to beat my rivals took a front row seat to the once simple love of the sport.
Could my true love for this sport be as simple as a feeling of accomplishment after each race, and a beautiful view?
About one more mile into the race I saw my lovely wife cheering for me on. I hadn’t seen one of my good friends and rivals on the course all day. Half of me was wondering how far ahead/behind me he was, and the other half was concerned as I knew he was fighting a pretty bad cold, and I was hoping he was OK. “Where is B-Hill?” I asked her. “He was in a bike crash, but he is OK. Keep going babe, you’re doing great”.
My heart stopped. This is not the way I wanted to beat my good friend and rival. I almost stopped to wait for him, but I pushed on knowing he was still pretty far back and I wanted to finish as well.
“Friends” I thought. “Accomplishment, Scenery, and Friends” the basics of Tim’s triathlon life. “That’s what I’m doing here.” I thought.
My eyes misted up a little out of pure emotion. I shed away the thousands of dollars in bike equipment, rivalry, and training into three simple things. Accomplishment, Scenery, and Friends— without these, I would not be out here.
Christ seemed to have such a great way of breaking through the layers of human garbage we dilute things with into simple words of wisdom that we can all understand. So much so that he broke the entire law of the bible down into two commandments.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39)
I think Christ himself wants us all to take a break and simplify our lives. Stop piling on the stuff that does not matter. Reflect on him and his role in our lives. Go to the quiet spaces, and be still. Stay grounded in what really matters, and focus on these things. The rest of our lives will be much more full.
I finished the race Sunday with a smile on my face. I gave my good friend a hug at the finish line. He was OK. I smiled at God’s creation, and I felt that sense of accomplishment in completing the race.
I am looking forward to my time away on vacation to do the same thing with my ‘complex’ day to day life. I plan to walk through new places and reflect on God’s gifts and the things he has done in my life. As with Triathlon, I know He will reveal himself and simplify the equasion.