After seeing some images on Facebook of a challenge I recently completed with a group of men, Amanda asked me to put a few words together as to how I’ve seen God at work lately in the circles in which I live.
Amanda and I became friends through my fiancée Megan, who was her roommate on the mission trip to Kenya that she took a couple of years back. Amanda’s willingness to follow where the Lord has called her is inspiring. I’m originally from the Land Shaped Like a Hand, but moved south to North Carolina last fall for grad school (and if I’m honest, to be a touch closer to my love).
A message at church recently reminded that God is able to use everyone, and he specializes in reclaiming broken vessels – that he came crashing into earth to identify with us and stand with us while we were messes that didn’t have it all together. That hit me in a different way this time – so often I want to be associated with someone who’s got it together, but God identifies and associates with me regardless of my flaws.
We rarely want to be seen as not having our lives together, and often excel at hiding our flaws. But from time to time we are placed in situations where we can’t pretend. It’s these situations that are often the richest, because we need to depend on God and others to get us through – no matter how un-American this idea is.
A few weeks back I was brought to this place, semi-voluntarily.
The challenge that brought me and 52 other proud men there was called GORUCK. It was billed as an 8-10 hour, 15-20 mile team challenge that was scheduled to start at 10 pm on a Friday night under the stars in Charlotte, NC. The GORUCK team likes to under-promise and over-deliver – so true to this maxim, the challenge lasted a solid 12 hours. And the leaders, called Cadre, reminded us throughout the night that we were the dumbasses that paid for this.
The challenge was tough. Really tough. It started with pushups and flutter kicks in a stream, and was followed by a cocktail of an extended 2 hr PT boot camp session, followed by a 2 mile hike in a creek with rabid beavers (maybe they weren’t rabid, but they were there with us), trailed by an extended hike to another park where we swam in a mucky pond, rolled in sand, and gathered 4 large logs, the largest of which weighed probably 600-800 lbs. And all this was done while wearing a backpack weighing approx. 30 pounds.
Up this point, the challenge had been difficult, but was reasonable. It was here when we were instructed that these logs needed to be delivered to our starting point more than 6 miles away – along with ammo boxes that had been filled with the sand that we had just finished rolling around in.
This legitimately seemed impossible.
It took us a half hour to get out of the parking lot – and we had miles to travel. If I was by myself facing a daunting challenge like this, I more than likely would have used the $20 cab money that we were encouraged to bring and flagged a ride home.
But I had teammates, and these teammates needed me, and I needed them. We took turns carrying the loads, and somehow managed to limp back to the park where we started. All that separated us from our GORUCK Challenge patches was one more trip through the painful Tunnel of Love – which you can see on the video link below.
The men that I completed this challenge with were from a grassroots workout group known as F3 Nation – Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith. It was started a few years ago by men who experienced the power of fellowshipping with men of faith, while growing stronger physically. If you are interested, visit www.f3nation.com for more info on how it all works, but the basics are that it is a completely free, peer led workout group that meets from 5:30a-6:15a at various parks around Charlotte – and has since spread to other cities in the Southeast – including Atlanta recently.
This group has had an incredibly powerful impact on my life since I moved here in March. Waking up at 5:00 definitely is a challenge for me, but being a part of a group of men that’s purpose is to develop leaders has been amazing.
At 30, I’m definitely in the younger third of the ‘pax’ (participants). I’ve been able to see firsthand men truly committed to having discipline and integrity, and have been able to develop solid a network of friends here too. And on top of these things, I’ve been more disciplined and sharper in other areas of my life, and have also shed 30 pounds.
The organization embodies its three tenets well – the workouts are solid, but they don’t leave anyone behind. Opportunities for fellowship abound – be it meeting for happy hour or father son/daughter camping trips. And some men have started a Saturday morning workout with men at Charlotte Rescue Mission recently, and others tutor kids at a local school – providing that all-important male role model.
I could go on for a while about how F3 has shifted the trajectory of my life, but I’ll leave you with three pieces of encouragement for today:
Just Start…and then Persevere. You don’t know where what you will do will end, or how it will go, but getting out of bed and taking that first step is the most important thing. You’re smart enough to figure it out as you go, or you can ask people, but take that first step…and persevere like hell no matter what is thrown at you. They say the hardest part of GORUCK is signing up – in many ways I found this to be true.
See and Speak Potential into People. Rudy was the guy who invited me to my first workout with F3 Nation. He was also the guy who told me he thought I could do GORUCK. I didn’t know that I could complete this challenge, but having someone speak this potential into my life opened this whole world up to me. It’s a bit like what God did for us – coming for us while we were still sinners and opening our eyes to a new way of life. Your words have incredible power – use them to speak life and potential into others.
Give Help, and Accept Help. – We need it both ways. Sometimes it’s hard to receive help, so if you are struggling with realizing this, www.goruck.com has challenges all across the country that can help crystallize this for you. =)
Blessings to you,
(PS, there is an F3 version for women as well, known as FIA – www.fiastrong.com )
One of the things I love about Paul is the way he loves my dear friend, Megan. But another thing I love about him is that he shatters every image of what God fearing men look like these days. If you’re a guy out there that’s been wanting to grow in your faith, but your mental image of a guy’s small group is that of koom-bi-ya singing group*….look no further! If you have questions about F3 or GoRuck, I’m sure Paul would be happy to answer them for you….just let me know and I can connect you.
*disclaimer: any similarities between your small group and the koom-bi-ya singing group are purely coincidental.