This past Saturday, several good friends and I ran a race called the Tough Mudder. We had a lot of fun, worked hard, and got muddy. Afterward, I realized that this race makes an excellent analogy for what the beginnings of many new ministries feel like.
Initially it’s scary seeing the course that has been laid out for you and knowing that there are going to be obstacles. Knowing that you are going to get bruised and dirty makes it hard to take that leap. Then that first hurdle comes and you make it past and it is exhilarating! It doesn’t change the fact that there are more challenges to come, but you made it past one, who says you can’t make it past the next? You keep going and make it through a couple more obstacles without even noticing and then something happens, and you can’t make it past the next obstacle by yourself. You try unsuccessfully to make it alone, until a hand reaches over to help you. You look ahead and see the exact same obstacle, but you know what to do now. You gather your team and get over it together. Again and again, you make it over these obstacles. Sure you slip and fall sometimes, but your team is there to catch you.
You fall, get kicked, punched, and bruised…
but you keep going.
Just when you think you’ve got the rhythm down, something changes and the next obstacle is twice as big. Your team has to work together like never before, even enlisting outside help, but you overcome it and succeed. Then in the distance you see something new, similar to what you’ve already beaten, but different enough that you know it will be the toughest challenge that you’ll have to face. If you had seen this when you started, you may not have begun, but you’re different now. You’ve grown. You’ve accomplished so much and something inside you screams “I can do this!” You work together with people you’ve never met, and may never meet again. You fall, get kicked, punched, and bruised, but you keep going.
From this point on, sure, you’ll face challenging moments, but to a certain degree, these don’t really even phase you. You’ve made it through the roughest part, and with that under your belt, you’re prepared for what lies ahead.
“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
This brought new meaning and understanding to one of Pope Francis’ most famous statements: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Once you get out there and get a few bruises you realize just how much you can do and then you do more! You realize what the Holy Spirit has in store for you and know that He will give you the grace and strength to not just make it, not just to get by, but to exceed even your own expectations. Many Catholics aren’t ready to go out on their own to do what Christ called us to do and “make disciples of all nations.” We must work together to accomplish this task. We need to call on others to join us in the mud. We need to show them that getting dirty and bruised isn’t as bad as they think it is, and we need to prove to each other that we can do this!
As ready as these hundreds of participants were to get muddy and hurt on this course, how ready are we as Catholics to go out into the world and get bruised, hurt and dirty? What unknown obstacle is keeping you from starting that race? You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Philippians 4:13