On Monday I “died”. What started off as a 90min run ended up with a deep revelation. It is a personal piece I write, with a deep conviction of my faith:
It was just a typical day in the clinics and I was mentally preparing myself for a 90 minute long run. The plan was to run from my gym at Buona Vista to Pandan Reservoir, run around it and back. The weather had just gotten cooler and the sun had gone down, so I was prepared for a great run. On the way out, I felt slightly fatigued.This was possibly due to the recent night shift that I had not recovered from or from me forgetting to hydrate myself well during the clinics. However, I brushed those concerns aside and decided to just start at a slower pace.
60min into the run, as I was on a stretch of no man’s land at Pandan Reservoir, I hit the wall. I felt helpless as I lay down on the gravel at Pandan Reservoir. If you don’t know Pandan Reservoir, it is a very secluded running park and at certain points of the loop, you are kilometers away from “civilization”. I was alone and stranded. I was about 8km away from my endpoint. For someone used to running 42km, I was completely discouraged by this distance I had to complete before I could just lie down and have a break. I called my wife, Bel, to explain that I would be home late. I was feeling so tired but I still had to find a way to get back to Buona Vista.
Multiple options came to mind – take a cab and wet the seats? Take a bus but from where? But first, I decided to turn off my podcasts and turn on some selected songs in remembrance of the Lent Week. By then my pace has slowed down to a crawl and I had to walk during certain segments.
As I arrived at a traffic junction, which was 3km away from my destination, a new wave of fatigue hit me. I felt cold and weak and my body was cramping up. I said a silent prayer in faith, seeking supernatural help. As a young believer, and in my simple faith, I asked for a bus to appear, and for the timing of the traffic light to be just nice to allow me to board it smoothly and swiftly, just so that I would not have to wait any further in this painful ordeal. To my amazement, bus 74 came by and stopped at the traffic junction while the lights turned green for me to cross, giving me ample time to reach the bus stop in time!
Thankfully (and again with such amazing God’s timing), with the new SimplyGo EZ-link system (which I had just activated over the weekend), I could use my phone as an EZ-link card, as I usually do not run with my card! I sat with such despair on the floor – at the area allotted for a wheelchair – in the bus. At this low point, I did not have the energy to think of what people thought of me dripping sweat and wetting the bus. As I disembarked, I bumped into a friend who commented on how pale and tired I looked. I had little energy to converse but confirmed with him that I was indeed too tired from my run and had to take a bus.
It was only as I showered and stopped wallowing in self-pity that I saw the exact significance of what I had gone through.
1. Building our lives on temporal foundations
As I recalled the moment when I was lying on the gravel at Pandan Reservoir, I was struck by how alone, how desperate and how fatigued I had felt. Indeed, at my weakest, I realized that nothing in the past had mattered. My two SEA Games Gold Medals, my personal best of 2 hr 26 minutes, my national records, and my 7 times as the Singapore National Marathon Champion didn’t help my situation one bit nor were they of any comfort.
I realized that this was what I had been doing for the past 29 years of my life – chasing records, degrees, accolades and praises. Today’s experience has really shown me that there will be a time when all things will come to a screeching halt whether we like it or not. It may come suddenly or it may come gradually, but it will likely come at a time when we least expect it. It may come in many forms – cancer, dementia, stroke, a car accident. And when that time comes, nothing that we have built in this world will matter.
Does that mean I should just chill out and bask in the sun? No, it’s just that we now have a different reason to pursue excellence.
I also noticed how the mind easily draws positivity and assurance from the past. As I went on in life, I frequently assured myself that I was on the right track by looking back on my achievements. even on my run, though I felt tired, I also assured myself: “This fatigue is nothing you can’t handle like you did in the past”. Is this a good approach? From a motivational point of view, it is great! But I now wonder if it is ideal to build our entire foundation and hope on our own past when the past can disintegrate and be worthless, like what I experienced on a smaller scale.
I think I prefer to put my hope and strength in something that is true yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) What truly lasts!
I am glad I have come to this realization later, rather than never.
2. Knowing our destination
On hindsight, I also realized how important it was that I knew where I was headed to – in this case, back to the gym. If I didn’t, I would be stranded and aimless, compounding my physical and mental distress. With the knowledge of my destination, even when I could not run, I could still figure out a way to get home.
The knowledge of where I am headed allowed me to be rational and to keep calm. Another characteristic about my destination, the gym, was that it was fixed, assured and unchanging – its true distance from me did not shift with my emotions or situation (even though it felt far).
I also recall a conversation with my colleagues. Imagine this. Before your final examination as a Surgical Resident, you are assured of a job in a hospital. There is no need to fight, compete or fear – a destination is assured for you. How will you approach this examination? Will I feel less stressed? Will I be more focused on performing well? I think so!
Knowing my destination, helped me to journey with greater freedom and assurance, to pursue excellence!
I am sure like these experiences, at my last moments, I will appreciate that in Christ, my destination is assured. (John 14:3)
I hope everyone is able to enjoy the hope and freedom that comes from building our lives on firm foundations, with a clear destination in mind, too! With much love, and well wishes!
Happy Easter & have a great holiday with your loved ones!