I changed out of my dress slacks and button-down into spandex tri-shorts and my favorite red technical shirt as slowly as I could. It had been a long day at the office with several meetings and requests for assistance. I knew what was ahead so I was in no hurry.

Most days I looked forward to training outdoors, but today was different. My regular training partner had completed his workout earlier in the day and Cami, my wife and other training partner, was unavailable. Tough workouts are always better to do with a partner. Knowing I’m meeting someone gets me out the door on days I would rather take a nap on the couch. Working out with someone else also allows my competitive nature to kick in, pushing me to do my best. And in truth, misery really does love company.

I sent out a Facebook plea in a last-ditch effort to find someone who might go with me, but got no responses. The air was chilly and there were dark clouds just waiting to release their contents. I’d have to face this workout alone and I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant.

My prescribed workout for the day was intense. After a fifteen-minute warm-up run, I’d face Granddad Bluff for fifty minutes of hill repeats—three minutes uphill, three minutes downhill; four minutes uphill, four minutes downhill; five minutes uphill, five minutes downhill—until I hit six minutes. All on a hill with a 10 percent grade. Then I’d do the same thing in reverse—five minutes, four minutes, three minutes. On ascents, I was to maintain a heart rate of 88-90 percent of my maximum capacity. It would cause my legs to burn and my lungs to gasp for oxygen. It would not be fun. I felt weak and unmotivated.

Hard to Go it Alone

Consistency in my training this year has been a challenge for a number of reasons. But consistency is key for race preparation. It’s critical to being prepared to compete successfully in an Ironman competition, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. I wasn’t looking forward to those hill repeats and I knew I would have lonely moments, but I also knew I needed to do it. I checked Facebook one more time to see if anyone responded to my plea for a willing companion, but I found no takers.

I began to plod toward Granddad Bluff.

After about a mile I passed my friend Bill’s house. He happened to be outside, just back from walking Toughy, his huge black Labrador. I waved and said hello.

“What are you doing?” Bill asked.

“Going to the bluff to pound my legs—hill repeats today,” I said.

“I’ll meet you over there and do them with you.”

My spirits instantly lifted. I suddenly found myself looking forward to the workout that was no longer ahead of just me, but was now ahead of us.
The work of Christian leadership and ministry is demanding—just as demanding in its own way as competing in an Ironman. When I became a senior pastor, I experienced the joy of serving God and using my leadership gifts to serve my congregation, but it wasn’t long before the inherent loneliness and isolation of that position began to take a toll. After a few years in ministry, I was exhausted and uncertain if I could continue in Christian leadership for the long haul. As a pastor, I routinely helped other people navigate their struggles, but I began to wonder who might be able to journey with me through my own rough waters.

Who cares for the souls of pastors? Who keeps them from levels of depletion that eventually cause them to crash and burn? Who accompanies them on the journey and helps them remain consistent in listening for the quiet whispers God wants to speak into their lives?

Training for Transformation

In 2002, the Transforming Center was formed to care for the souls of pastors, Christian leaders and the congregations and organizations they serve. Through the two-year Transforming Community®, pastors and Christian leaders train together so they can finish the race to which God has called them.

The Transforming Center has helped me to experience a transformation that has strengthened and restored me—a transformation that continues to nurture me in my leadership today. The Transforming Center has helped me remain consistent in pursuing the practices that open me to God’s transforming work so that I can lead from that place.

In his younger years, Bill was an accomplished runner; now in his fifties, he is a generous running companion who pushes me to work hard.

The skies did open, but it no longer mattered.

Bill’s willingness to join me on Granddad Bluff helped me nail the workout and remain consistent in my training, which is what I need in order to compete successfully in an Ironman race. The community of pastors and leaders that I have become a part of in the Transforming Center supports, encourages, and joins me as I seek to follow Christ in my call as a senior pastor. As an Ironman athlete, my deepest desire—to complete the race— is what will carry me through. As a pastor, my deepest desire—to know Christ and love him forever—is what will carry me through and strengthen the soul of my leadership. I thank God for the ministry of the Transforming Center, which helps me and, indirectly, my congregation, to practice consistent disciplines for following Christ.

This year marks the fifth time I’ve competed on behalf of the Transforming Center. This is one way I can give back to the Transforming Center so that other pastors and leaders might experience the nurture, care and transformation that have changed my life and my leadership. Please join me in supporting this vital ministry.

Support one pastor to help many more by making a gift in honor of our Ironman Pastor. October is Clergy Appreciation Month– a great time to show your support of clergy. Designate your gift as “Ironman Pastor” to support Jonathan and help many more pastors.

Donate now

© Jonathan Taylor Haley, 2010. This article is not to be reproduced without permission from the author or the Transforming Center.


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