Next month I will compete in the Smoky Mountain Highland Games in Maryville, TN. It’ll be my second event and it’s considerably larger in scope than my first. I wasn’t nervous about the first and I’m not nervous about the next. I’m probably more concerned about not having any apprehension than anything else. I think any normal person, with normal thought processes, would feel at least a little bit of fear or worry stepping into a larger playing field. It seems that I’m not that normal.

In preparation for the events this season I’ve been trying to practice as often as possible, with once a week being a goal. This is not always a goal that’s met due to factors like heavy rain (like this past weekend) or a holiday (the weekend prior). I did attempt to get a few throws in on Easter after church service, however. The results were not so good.

I’m still working on my form in the weight-for-distance event and decided that I’d start off attempting a few 2-turn throws. In my mind I knew exactly what I wanted to do; how my feet should land, where the weight would be through each turn, and when to release. I envisioned a perfect throw. What I achieved was no less than a comedy of errors. The weight and I danced, but not in a graceful or beautiful by anyone’s standard. I’m sure it looked violent and painful to anyone who may have caught a glimpse of our performance. The turns were forced and mechanical. The released was premature and off target. I resigned myself to a handful of sub-par single turn throws to clear my head.

I moved on to heavy hammer throws. I enjoy the hammers event; it feels good and I’m not too bad at it. I thought that I’d redeem myself with something I like. I made one really good throw. The next throw resulted in catastrophic failure of my homemade hammer setup. As I brought the hammer around for the release, the handle shattered and sent 10 lb plates flying across the field. Thankfully, I was alone that day and no casualties were incurred. I collected the remains of my useless implement and skulked back to the car. The seeds of self-doubt were beginning to take root.

At this point I knew I should have packed it in and called a day; to reflect on all of the mistakes and make mental notes of where I need to make form adjustments (as well as physical replacement for the broken hammer). I am not a man who readily responds subtle hints. This day was no exception and I pressed on, still convinced that I’d make this practice happen. My decision to work on the weight-over-bar throw sealed my fate. The area that we use for practice doesn’t have a high bar, so WOB and sheaf are done for form only. I threw once; it went up and came down as intended. Gravity hadn’t betrayed me yet. The next throw was the deal breaker. The weight came down on the handle, thus turning a perfect circular ring into a severely malformed D-shape. I gave up and loaded everything back the car. There was no way I was going to risk more disappointment by pulling out the fork and sheaf at this point. The practice was officially over for me.

I can laugh about it now. At the time it was devastating. I performed terribly, my hammer rendered useless, and my ring handle was almost totally destroyed. On the surface it wasn’t a productive day; I was disappointed and had let those seeds of doubt root a little too deeply than They should have. What I learned after the fact was that I persisted, even after the first (and second) setbacks. I get at it. Implements can be repaired or replaced. Knowing that I have the will to keep going forward when it seems like the whole universe is working against me is the best lesson to have learned that day.

Proverbs 24:10 (KJV)  – If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

I don’t want small strength, in any form. I want strength in my mind, strength in my body, and strength in my spirit. All of these strengths are achievable. I had to look at my “failures” during this practice to see that perseverance was the driving force in what I was trying to do. I can do anything if I believe it and speak it.

2 Chronicles 15:7 (KJV)Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.

Be persistent in moving toward your goals and never give up. Say, out loud, what you want to achieve. Believe it. Don’t let the seeds of doubt get their foothold and above all else, remember that you are never alone in your challenges when you have Christ in your life.