Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Drumbeats of War

We're now just a few weeks away from our long anticipated participation in the Spartan Race being held in Burnett, Texas. There's a sense of trepidation as the date fast approaches, with the realization sinking in that we've committed ourselves to a daunting physical task. However, we voluntarily challenged ourselves this way because of what races do for us. They force us to strive for better health than we might have otherwise without the accountability of an upcoming race date. Periodically running in local 5K races has done that as well, requiring preparation so that the race itself isn't an embarrassing performance from an out of shape slob. For some, running such races is a snap because they instinctively run on a regular basis anyway. They enjoy the "runner's high" and the time alone that it presents. Therefore, the race is just a chance to measure their time and enjoy the celebration of their already existing lifestyle. However, for the non-runner, setting a race date forces them to make preparations, through regular exercise, that they might not have otherwise done. Such is the case with me.

With the Spartan Race, however, we discovered something beyond the mere local 5K to support leukemia research, noble and enjoyable as they are. We found in it a comprehensive lifestyle of fitness that pushes us toward health in all aspects of strength and stamina, for it's designed to require all the physical rigors of ancient living (i.e. throwing, running, climbing, lifting, crawling, etc.). In addition, the themes and ceremony of the Spartan Race made it much more a fully immersing event to enjoy. The "warrior" themes concerning the "Spartan" title find origin in the events portrayed in the film "300," wherein three hundred Spartan warriors, elite for their day, held back millions of Persians from invasion at Thermopylae. That kind of inspirational history, attached to a modern fitness regimen, can produce inexplicable motivation to adopt new habits and prepare for an epic "battle" with one's own inclinations to grow fat, sloppy and complacent.

Selecting such a race demonstrates something about the necessity of leadership in a family. Military historian, Sir Michael Howard, excellently summarized leadership as "the capacity to inspire and motivate; to persuade people willingly to endure hardships, usually prolonged, and incur dangers, usually acute, that if left to themselves they would do their utmost to avoid." Applied to family leadership, this definition means that those assuming leadership in the home must "inspire, motivate and enthuse" those living with them to adopt practices for their own benefit that they might otherwise not give a second thought to perform, or that are easily set aside in the hustle and bustle of life. A good example is the role of spiritual leadership in the home. The one that assumes the role of "spiritual leader" in that context is responsible to ensure that spirituality (in our case, Christianity) is integral to the home's currents and dynamics, that family prayer times and Bible studies occur at regular intervals and that family culture has Christian rationale for various customs. The leader must "inspire, motivate and enthuse" the family to adopt such habits to foster Christian growth in the home that, left to themselves, they might otherwise avoid. Leadership in one arena becomes analogous to leadership in another.

When I first brought up the notion of the Spartan Race last year, everyone was enthusiastic, saying, "That looks cool! Let's do it!" In preparation to participate, two things were in order: (1) gain for my family some early exposure to what exactly they'd agreed to, and (2) raise the money for all of us to register for the race. As it happened, volunteering at the Spartan Race last December in Glen Rose, TX accomplished both. They got a good idea what the race was all about, and volunteering for a day earned us all free registration to a future race. Our experience at the Spartan "Beast" in December was a fun outing that we all enjoyed, and it only increased our enthusiasm to go back. However, now that the race is less than five weeks away, the sober realization of what is coming is starting to set in. This is the time when the training definitely needs to keep its intensity, lest the race be more torture than fun.

This race, on many levels, is serving as a living analogy for other areas of life in which we must "struggle and emerge." Academics, vocation or personal development find lessons in such a challenge. Even the historic Christian spiritual disciplines of the ancient Church were physical in nature to train with the body what was needed in the soul. In like manner, preparation for the Spartan "Sprint" can act as a spiritual discipline of sorts, forcing meditation and focus on things necessary for higher living beyond the status quo. The point is, a race such as this is not merely a race. It's an event loaded with life lessons to be applied across a variety of categories. I'm inspired to reflect much further on the Spartan Race as a spiritual discipline as the race draws near, and likely those reflections will find their way here.

The video below is a preview of the race we are going to participate in. As the date approaches, the "drumbeats of war" seem to get louder, forcing us to training harder and let the analogy be even more potent. This "war" is with our own tendencies toward complacency, laziness and sloth. This "war" is against the spiritual sense of gravity that weighs and pulls us down. The drums can be heard approaching, and we are galvanizing for this epic event for our family. Join us if you dare.

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