Lazarus Lake on Life Lessons

There is this documentary on Netflix right now. I've watched it three times in the last two weeks.

I'm fascinated.

I'm enthralled.

I cannot get enough.

The documentary tells the tale of the Barkley Marathons. The ultimate of ultra races.

Our good friend Nate, who's an ultra runner himself, told us about it and bet my husband a six pack of beer that we would love it.

So, Zach, convinced he was about to win an easy six pack, turned it on one night without any expectations.

Two minutes in, we were hooked.

Maybe it was even faster than that.

Basically, the whole point of this race is to complete 100 miles in 60 hours. (Although in the documentary, they tell you its' actually the length of 5 full marathons.)

And it's not just any 100 miles. It's 100 miles of trail and off road wilderness. It takes place in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and the runners fight 120,000 feet total of elevation changes.

The race happens in 5 loops of 20(or 26.2) miles at a time. Between each loop, the runner is allowed to go back to camp and eat or sleep if they think they have time or change their wet socks or do whatever it is they need to do.

They run through rivers and up hills with nearly 90 degree angles. They run across cliffs and under a federal prison. They run through malicious brambles that slice their legs to all hell. They run in any kind of weather and through rain and snow and heat and nighttime and daytime.

I mean, this is humanity at its worst.

And finest.

I am captivated by the tenacity of these people. The sheer resolve and strength of dedication. At the time of the documentary, the race had been going on for 30+ years and only ten people had finished.

Most people drop out by the second loop.

Completing the third loop is a feat in itself and referred to as a Fun Run.

Finishing all five loops puts the runner in an elite class of fitness, stamina and willpower.

I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not a runner.

I will never be a runner.

I don't even want to be a runner.

I was an athlete in high school and even played a year of college basketball. But then I had four kids and my boobs are everywhere and I am just DONE with running.

Yoga is my jam. Maybe zumba.

But never running.

And yet, I can watch these runners push themselves past their limits, into a place of pain and self-inflicted torture that they have never been before and I am moved.

In the documentary, one of the runners makes the comment that we(Americans/Humans/Whatever) rarely willingly let ourselves experience physical pain.

His point is that, pain doesn't kill you. Pain isn't necessarily bad for you. There is teaching and experience and character in pain that we often miss because we're so afraid of it. Because if it's hard, we don't want to do it. Because if it could hurt us, we immediately associate it with being bad for us.

Lazarus Lake, one of the founders and the kind of human you think can't possibly be real, says that the majority of Barkley Marathon applicants are grad and post grad educated. He makes the supposition that they are drawn to the race for the possibility of failure. That because they are so successful and smart and advanced in their fields, they want to try something that has a large percentage of failure so that they can truly push themselves.

And can't we apply the avoidance-of-pain philosophy to failure as well?

How afraid are we of failure? How crippled are we by the very prospect of failing? If we know there's a chance we won't succeed, do we even try?

Can we even make ourselves start?

I watch this documentary and I can't help but apply it to all of life. I can't help but see the bigger picture here. The race that isn't the Barkley Marathons, but rather, the race of life.

Because even though not many of us can run five trail marathons in less than sixty hours, we still have to fight our way through this battle of life and living and humanity.

We still have to endure this world.

We still have to cross the finish line of our life. And some of us might race across with arms held high in victory. But, I think, the majority of us are stumbling across... dehydrated, starving, beaten up and barely sane.

Please understand that I know that life is hard without adding to it. We lose loved ones. We lose our hearts because of loved ones. Sickness and death and pain and suffering happen all of the time.

Every damn day.

So why am I suggesting we heap more on???

Because I'm not talking about those things. You guys, I look at what ISIS is doing in this world and North Korea and Libya and all of the evil, cruel, hateful men and women that exist among us and my heart hurts. I weep for those victims.

I ache for a better world where we don't judge each other and hate each other and hurt each other and kill each other.

But in the reality of our personal lives, there is a reason for pain and failure. There is a season for it.

And it's not a bad thing.

In fact, I think it's one of the best things that can happen to us.

Our culture is bent on never speaking to each other face to face. Our society is face-in-phone-text-to-speak-the-perception-of-social-media-is-reality sick.

We're infected with it.

We see perfect lives on Facebook and believe they're real.

We infer tone and meaning and hidden meaning to texts and assume other people hate us.

We never look up at dinner to see our hurting friends or our loving husbands or our watchful children.

We don't let people get close because... what if they hurt us? What if they destroy us?

What if they don't like us?

What if they see who I really am and judge me?

We don't follow our dreams because... what if we fail? Or get rejected?

Or make a fool of ourselves.

We don't engage in real life because our unreal lives online hide our faults and our problems and our pain.

But it also hides our value.

And our depth.

And all of those real life things that make us who we are. That make us beautiful and endless and human.

Pain and failure suck.

I know it.

I've had my fair share of both.

But as I look back at my life, it's hard for me to regret any of it. It's hard for me to think those experiences were wasted... that they were anything but necessary and needed and good.

Failure is my friend now. I say often, that before I do anything right, I do it wrong first. I'm not exaggerating either.

I've made more mistakes than I can count. And sometimes the shame creeps up on my face and into my heart and I want nothing more than to hide under my covers until Jesus comes back.

I've been hurt just as many times. By friendships. By family. By people I trusted.

For me, failure is easier to bounce back from. I can face failure easier because I know that there is life after it. It's happened so often and eventually yielded such positive outcomes that I know I'll be okay.

But relationships, especially friendships, are harder for me. I'm afraid to get too close to people. I don't open up because I just don't. Unless I'm typing it out, I'm not a sharer. I'm a loner and proud of it.

I am happy to be by myself.

Except for this lesson I keep having to face. Real friendship hurts because those friends are close enough to have the power to hurt you.

That isn't a bad thing!

That's a really good thing. To be in life so deep with someone that they can cause you pain means that you've let them into your life. You've opened up your heart and invited them in.

Pain and hurt are not the end all. Just because someone hurts you doesn't mean that relationship is over.

The best things in life take work. Hard work. And I'm coming to this conclusion that the best relationships in life also take work.

Hard work. 

If the Barkley Marathons are my analogy for life, then those five loops are going to demand every ounce of blood, sweat and tears we have in us.

I'm not saying that a relationship should be abusive. There is a difference between healthy friendship that oversteps and a cruel person that inflicts pain because of their own sickness.

But there is a level of truth we try to avoid. Truth we don't want to hear. Truth we want to ignore. Truth that is too real and too honest and too... painful.

The thing about it is... we get to decide.

We can choose never to start the race.

We can decide we don't want the hassle. We don't want the consequences. Our ankles hurt. Our backs hurt. We're tired. We're not cut out for this.

Or we can decide that we're not in this for one loop. Or two loops. We're not trying to get through the Fun Run.

We're trying to win the race.

We're going to focus our mind on the finish line. We're going to face the inclement weather. The dark nights. And the hot days. We're going to strive. We're going to press on. We're going to fail and fail and fail and decide to keep going anyway. We're going to hurt and ache and cry and collapse at times... but we're going to get back up. And we're going to keep going. And we are never ever going to stop.

We might run at times.

We might walk at others.

There will be times where we are on our knees, barely crawling forward, our hands curled in the dirt and our knees scraped and bloody, and it doesn't even seem like we're making progress.

But dear friends, success is in the effort. Victory is in the inch-by-slow-inch push forward.

Life is in the fibers of this race.

Don't be a spectator. Don't be a fan. Don't you dare be a critic.

Run the race.

Live your life.

Be real with each other. Get into each other's lives and get messy. Get dirty. Get exhausted. But don't just watch it happen to other people and sit at home afraid of failure. Afraid of pain.

Afraid of authentic life that demands so much.

But gives back even more.

And it might be that you open up and dive in deep and there is no pain or failure. There's nothing but broken people loving broken people and struggling through this race side by side.

But don't let the fear of failure keep you from figuring it out. Don't let the fear of pain stop you from trying.

Because either way... there will be joy.

Either way their will life at its fullest.




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