Coming Clean…

I’d like to make a confession. 

For the last month or so I’ve been meaning to blog about something new in my life but saying this thing out loud (even in blog) feels a bit like being in one of those meetings that begin:  ‘Hello. My name is Sheila and I am an…… 

But this confession is not about an addiction.  On the contrary it is something good and positive, something I’ve been quietly excited about for the last 6 weeks. Something that has raised my levels of hopefulness and become part of my way forward out of the slough of despond brought on by my empty nest this summer.  It’s linked me to old and new friends with a new sense of focus.

So what is it?  (And why am I being so coy about it??)

Okay, here goes….

Are you ready for this?

could you try not to laugh?

It won’t be anything you’re expecting….


Well, that pretty much explains why I’m being coy! The idea of a dumpy middle-aged woman donning lycra and calling herself a triathlete is ridiculous and I will allow you to laugh but only with me, not at me because I too am laughing over the sheer lunacy of this plan.

Here’s what I have to do (next May): swim 400m, cycle 20 kilometres, run 5 kilometres, all as fast as possible, going straight from the pool to the bike to the running track with no changes of clothing allowed. The idea is to finish in less than 2 hours and as near as possible to 1 hour. This distance is called a ‘sprint’ distance. (cue hysterical laughter)

Here’s how things stand at the moment: overweight and with a dodgy left ankle I can ‘run’ for 5 minutes at a slow jog. The swimming and the cycling bits are a better but I’m not built for speed and although I’m trying to learn front crawl, I can’t do more than one length before I begin inhaling water. 

For all these reasons it sounds ridiculously pompous and self inflated to declare myself a  triathlete. But that is what our coach told us we had to do: buy a diary (oh, goody, another diary) and write ‘Triathlete’s Training Diary’ on the cover. Thinking yourself into the role is a key part of the process…apparently.

I know this to be true because this isn’t the first ‘I am’ phrase that I’ve had trouble with. Years ago when I first began to write someone encouraged me to say ‘I am a writer’ instead of mumbling ‘I do a bit of writing’. Now 17 years, 6 books and a lot of columns later, I still become hopelessly self-conscious saying it and very rarely do.

This is not the only ‘ I am ‘ phrase that gives me grief. I can’t yet say ‘ I am a trainee vicar’ without first taking a deep breath and checking for bolt-holes.It tends to be a bit of a conversation stopper that one!  Not unlike the phrase ‘I am a Christian’.  But why should I be coy? These are all good and positive things in my life, they express something very close to the core of who I am so why am I so self-conscious?  I suppose fear is the biggest factor: the fear that I’ll be misunderstood (‘who does she think she is?’) fear of being pigeon-holed or sounding pompous and big-headed.  And below the fear, in all these cases is self-doubt: ‘I’m not sure I’m up to this task, there are so many things I don’t understand about God,  some days I don’t feel full of faith at all’ and so on and so on.

But the way to overcome fear and self-doubt is not to blindly pretend they aren’t there, but to’ feel the fear and do it anyway’. Yes, I’m unfit, overweight, with dodgy joints, wobbly thighs and flabby arms but I AM a triathlete.  Yes, I may have doubts and feel inadequate as a Christian but I AM loved and known to my Creator.

In Romans 10 Paul tells what it takes to become a Christian. Wisely he talks about two things being necessary ‘believe in your heart’ (private commitment) and ‘confess with your mouth’ (public statement). In other words, as you say something out loud, an internal hope changes into an external reality. It’s about believing what you are becoming even if you feel yourself not quite there yet.

In another New Testament book Paul talks about running a race and winning a prize, he’s not confessing to being a triathlete but his words sum up that process: ‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards…’  (Philippians 3:12-14)

3 thoughts on “Coming Clean…

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  1. Oh Sheila, I absolutely love this post. It releases me to know you find this sort of thing difficult too. One day I hope to have stopped worrying enough about what people think to speak freely, but it’s a work in progress for me too.

    I hope the triathlon goes well too. Every blessing.
    Gill x

  2. Sheila, Well done you for even starting the training. In a couple of years you will be tackling an ‘Iron Man’ and wondering what all the fuss was about.

    You also reminded me of something my counsellor used to (repeatedly) say to me; ‘Stop putting yourself down.’ On one occasion I’d just said I’d done 3 marathons but that I wasn’t a very good runner! I’m not sure I have got the message yet but I’m trying to be more honest about who I am and what I can do.

    1. Thanks Hugh and Gill, I’m very happy today because I’ve just discovered the swim distance is half what I thought it was – only 16 lengths of the pool and I’ve been practising 32! D’oh, maths really isn’t my strong point, just as well I didn’t make the mistake the other way round.

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