I have a friend and former boss who participated in and completed one of the most grueling events known to mankind – the Ironman Triathlon. This race is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run, raced in that order without a break. Most of these races have time limits attached to them, with the entire race being performed in 17 hours. He disciplined himself, trained hard, and qualified for the race which he endured in Kona, Hawaii a number of years back. He is now in his 50’s and, last I knew, training once again.
I had the privilege of sitting down with him one day a few years after the race to hear his story. I wish I had time here to share with you in great detail the dream that motivated him, as well as the joys and the struggles leading up to the event and those that he endured as he participated in this race of races. I could have told you of his dreams, desires and determination long before he ever went to Hawaii, but his devotion is one thing I could never comprehend, nor could he, until after the race. There was one time particular that stands out in my mind during the bike portion of the race. He had pushed himself hard, perhaps harder than he should have, early on in the biking despite his coach’s advice. He had spent too much energy before encountering the crosswinds through the lava fields. He soon found himelf unable to continue and fell off his bike, determined to throw in the towel on the race. Fortunately, another biker came along and saw his physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. The person encouraged him and spurred him back into the race and rode alongside until he regained his composure and resolve.
I share this story to help us understand perhaps a little more fully this thing we call “devotion”. Too many times, people confuse determination (which we talked about in the last blog) and devotion. The word, “devotion” means to be sold out to someone or something. In our conversations, we talk about being devoted to this or that, when the truth of the matter is we are talking of our determination to be devoted to it. Devotion is a peculiar thing. It is impossible to truly understand one’s devotion until it is first put to the test. Up until that moment, all we really know is our level of determination. Our depth of devotion is revealed in light of our degree of difficulty or opposition. Devotion requires us to plow into, push against, and follow through, even when things get difficult.
Even though we will only know the true depth of our devotion in the difficult times, I believe there a few things that will help us understand where our potential devotions will lie. There are many more than these, but I feel these are the “big ones”.
We will be devoted to that which we perceive as true. I have never met a person willing to die to keep a lie alive. We will only give ourselves ultimately to that which we see as uncompromisingly and unquestionably sure. I feel safe in saying that most of us long to be part of something bigger than ourselves. That which is true was true before we were and will remain true even after we breathe our last breath. This will receive our devotion.
We will be devoted to that which is sustainable. If we see something as fading away and unable to continue on for the long term, we will be less apt to pour our whole self into it. If we can see ourselves as achievers and overcomers in the task at hand, we will be more inclined to give it all we have.
We will be devoted to that which has value. We need to see the validity in the journey. If we want our life journey to make a difference, we will put little stock in the “Sunday Drive” activities and tasks, refusing to allow them to comprise the majority of our time. We know time is short and do not want to be always engaged in activities that have no real intrinsic value.
We will be devoted to that which adds value – to both ourselves and others. Most people like to better themselves and others. It brings a sense of fulfillment to our lives and purpose to our existence.
So, what causes devotions to waver? It is largely due to one of three things. For some, there has been a major shift in a belief and/or value system, affecting one or more of the items listed above. For others, there is a point of conflict among those items listed and a deliberate attempt must be made bring harmony between those areas. For most people, however, it is just a matter of distractions. Things happen and situations take place that get our eyes off the mark. We must revisit what is truly important – a personal “Declaration” if you will – where we re-examine the “truths we hold” that we will allow to govern our lives.
What truth, values, and beliefs shape the banks within which your devotion will flow? What shakes your devotion the most? What strengthens your resolve? Are there some devotions that must be laid to rest so that other devotions that will be more fulfilling, productive, and life-giving can rise to the surface? We would love to hear your insights.