On March 16, 2010, I started this piece. One of the features of the Typepad blog is that you can keep drafts for work at a future time. As time marched on this draft was pushed futher down my list of posts such that I forgot about it. Bro's passing prompted me to restart and rename what was originally "My Ultimate Irony".
Irony. I first explored the concept in my 10th grade English class. This was not your typical public school English class. Mr. Sargent, our teacher, was truly a mystery of a man. Tall, broad, and bald, he commanded respect like no other teacher I'd ever had, but he also had an amusing side as he cracked jokes about his ex-wife and life in the Marines neither of which we know to be true.
That I'm now driven to write is a compelling irony - but it's not my "ultimate irony". That's another story which l'll share. All one has to do is go through my website (now gone) and blog to understand that one of my highest values is for health. And I don't settle for ordinary health, I go for extraordinary. My early years of training and nutrition were influenced by a desire for fitness and competition. As my knowledge and spirit grew, my regimine took a more balanced approach. My desire is now more about taking the best care of my God-given body that I possibly can.
While I still like to engage in some chancy activities (marathon running and soccer come to mind), I acknowledge their risks, and I consume them in moderation. We've all gotta play, right? As for nutrition, the label of "kook" could now be applied as I've pushed a lot of things out of what I tolerate in my diet and I've tried to add things that I believe God intended. Raw milk (straight from a grass-fed cow as God designed) comes to mind, and ironically as well, some have suggested that as a contribution to the state I'm in (above written 3/16/10 while recovering from surgery).
Before I describe the state I was in, here's how the story begins. Bro and I were raised in a home where health and wellness was important but not worshipped. Our parents exercised and ate in moderation. Never given to gluttony their motive for keeping fit and trim would be more linked to vanity - and vanity can be a good motivator. Appearances have always been highly valued in our home. I understand this isn't God's desire - I'm just tellin' it like it is.
I would have to say that bro and I introduced worship into our health shortly after we started lifting weights. Our first set of weights were those plastic coated, concrete filled plates that Dad bought us from one of his customers. At that time we lived in Largo, Florida and Dad was in sporting goods sales so he had access to cheap equipment. And this stuff was cheap. As soon as Bro and I started making money, we started replacing it with the real deal - cast iron.
Since both of us had just gone through the middle school growth spurt, we were quite gangly (scrawny really). So like many boys with this condition, we tried to correct it with weightlifting and protein shakes. I doubt our efforts put a dent in the cause, but over the next few years nature took over and put a little meat on our bones.
If you ever read my post Welcome to The Huge Gym, you know that we violated God's first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Here's what I said in that post:
We worshipped the bodybuilding legends of the day. We all know Arnold, but there was Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno (who became TV's Incredible Hulk), Frank Zane, Lee Haney, and Tom Platz. Oh, how we would marvel at Tom's thighs, of Haney's mass, and Zane's more slender proportions. These guys were our gods."
I'm sure you'll offer grace and forgiveness to those teenage boys, but I'll have to confess that our worship of fitness didn't end there. We continued to lift weights, but in our late 20's we started into road racing. 5K's and 10K's were our new testing ground as we took to the streets to prove ourselves. Anyone whose caught the running bug knows that these shorter events are the just the gateway drug to the more consuming endeavors - marathons and half marathons. While we arrived at our half marathons about the same time, Bro took first with his completion of the New York City marathon in 2002 in a solid 3:43.
In 2000 I started the whole newby process again as I entered my first triathlon; and like road racing this sport had a way of making me hungry for more. Within 2 years, I had progressed to the Half Ironman distance - a swim, bike, run race that took me nearly 6 hours to complete - and almost twice that many hours each week to train.
You may be wondering what's wrong with all of this - weightlifting, road racing, triathlon, and the strict diet that accompamies all of them. There's nothing wrong with any of it. But there was definitely something wrong with how they settled in the priorities and values in my life. Of course I would never admit it, addicts never do, but an examination of my life and the way I consumed its minutes would reveal that my exercise usually came before my God and my family.
Outsiders looking in might say I'm being overly critical of myself. Insiders looking out would see a Dad and husband who's off to another long training session, a race, or cycling weekend with the boys while they quickly grow up, out, and away. Being the self-centered creature I am, if it wasn't exercise, there would've been some other self-fulfilling activity to draw me afar.
And this is exactly why I can now thank God for my cancer.
I started this post on 3/16/10, two weeks after I discovered I had GIST cancer. At that time I wasn't thanking God for it. I was only wallowing at how bizarre and unfair it seemed for a health nazi to get cancer. How ironic. My ultimate irony. Bro succumbed to this ultimate irony. The irony is the thing we pursued the most was the thing taken away from us.
Like only God can do, He lead to to some resources that helped me explore a deeper meaning for my condition. In particular the Master Wellness system materials I purchased had a number of special reports - one of which was called "The Spiritual Side of Cancer". In it the author thanked God for his cancer!
A willingness for self-examination eventually brought to my conscious some of the unhealthy areas of my life. My zealousness for fitness was one of those areas that needed tuning. While I need to exercise to take the best care of my earth vehicle, that endeavor should never displace the most valuable of my possessions - relationships. Relationship with God, my family, my friends, and even complete strangers.
I know Jesus would never pass someone in need as he sets off for a nice bike or swim. In fact, he'd be a lousy training partner. Just as I'm gettin' into my groove, he'd be stopping to talk with or care for someone he perceived to be in need.
Lesson/point of the story: my health comes from the Lord. It's not mine. It's offered to me just like a rental tuxedo. I'm to take care of it, but ultimately it has to be returned. Because it's not mine, I have to be a good steward and take care of it.
"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."
3 John 1:2 (NIV)