Ben ran in Ottawa's Spartan Beast on Sunday. A half-marathon with 26 obstacles... up a mountain.
A few days before the race, I gave him the opposite of a pep-talk: "You don't have to finish it. Feel free to drop out."
He said, "What?! You're not supposed to say that."
It wasn't the motivational support he was looking for.
I was worried for his well-being, for his safety. I feared he would injure himself. Pretty valid fears, I should say, considering the task at hand.
But I knew in my heart there was a lesson in that interaction - my fear and his response. The importance of coming alongside each other and saying, "You can do it. You can finish. Keep going. I believe in you." It's a form of faith over fear.
Ben finished the race. He and Benoit and another friend completed it together. It took them just over seven hours. He swam through a lake, carried sandbags through water, ran through a stoney river surrounded by forest, scaled the mountainside four times, navigated under barbed wire... Even on Sunday evening, lying in bed, in the midst of his nausea and pain, he said there were a few glorious moments - where he felt the fullness of adventure. The race organizers say, "You'll know at the finish line" and he had made it. He knew.
And what do supporters/partners/friends do with their fear? As they choose to encourage and have words of faith for others, what do they do when they see the realities of the challenges at hand?
Well, Ben's mom prayed. I spoke with her the night before the race. She told me she had woken up in the night, feeling she had to pray for Ben and his race. She said God only wakes her up in the night to pray if it's really serious.
It wasn't until Sunday night, when he was home safely, that I told him about Jenny's prayers. He got a little teary-eyed, still in a post-race daze and said he felt them - those prayers. He noted moments throughout the race where he found himself on the brink of injury - and avoided it. He could have come home with broken bones and sprained muscles - but he didn't.
And I could see that was the right thing for Jenny to do... to pray.
So, we remind each other we can do it, that we can finish this race.
And we pray for each other too!