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On April 8, 2021, news agencies reported the story of a US Army captain, CPT Katie Hernandez, who set a new Guinness World Record for running a mile. What was her magical time? She ran a mile in ten minutes and 23 seconds. This broke the previous women’s record of eleven minutes and six seconds, set back in 2003.

Now, wait a minute! It took her ten minutes to finish a mile? World class runners routinely run the mile in under four minutes. What’s so great about CPT Hernandez’ achievement?

CPT Hernandez is the commander of an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) company. Part of the EOD tradition is to run a mile in an 84-pound, stiff, cumbersome, and hot EOD uniform. It consists of armor plating for the entire body – head, torso, arms, and legs. Its purpose is to help a person survive when they are in close proximity to an exploding bomb.

Trying to defuse a bomb while wearing this armor is an exhausting experience. Running a race in this equipment puts a runner at a great disadvantage. Therefore, CPT Hernandez’ time of 10:23 was heroic.

You know, it’s good that we honor achievements which are accomplished against tremendous disadvantages. And it’s also good that we disparage achievements gained by unfair advantages – such as using performance-enhancing drugs in competition.

In a way, performing such tasks at great disadvantages mirrors real life. For, in life everyone’s performance is ultimately relative to the obstacles and adversity under which they labor.

This concept applies to our giving and generosity. Consider the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44. In this story, Jesus recognized the disadvantages under which the poor widow gave her tiny gift to the Temple. Her two tiny copper coins equaled only 1/64 of a denarius. And a denarius was the lowest daily wage for a common laborer. Yet, because she gave all she owned – under the burden of poverty – Jesus reckoned her gift as greater than the bags of gold donated by the rich.

This concept also applies to success in life. Booker T. Washington made the observation that success should not only be measured by the level a person reaches in life, but also by the obstacles one overcomes in the process. Perhaps a comparison between him and one of his contemporaries can illustrate this. President Theodor Roosevelt grew up in wealth, attended Ivy League schools, and was afforded many opportunities for advancement. But Booker T. was born into slavery and overcame insurmountable obstacles to become one of America’s greatest educators, authors, and advisors to Presidents. Under these circumstances, shouldn’t Booker T. Washington’s rise be considered greater than that of President Roosevelt?

This concept applies to those who carry heavy family and professional responsibilities. Parenthood and slaving at a job to provide for one’s family weighs a person down. When I was still in the Army I used to complain to my wife that I was a slave to her and our children and grandchildren. At the time I was a Lieutenant Colonel, yet I was driving a 15-year-old Ford Windstar, in contrast to many Junior Enlisted soldiers who owned brand-spanking-new Camaros, Challengers, and Mustangs.

What was the matter with me? Couldn’t I shell out the money to buy a high performance vehicle? No, I couldn’t. My paycheck got divided up many ways to help support my kids and grandkids. Parenthood brings many joys. But it’s also a heavy burden that makes the mom and dad slaves to their children. Therefore, it’s right that we honor them with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day observances.

The concept of performing under disadvantages also applies to old age. One of the most troubling aspects of old age is the physical and mental weakness it brings – even to the strong in faith. Throughout my youth I lived under the assumption that the stronger my faith and spirit became, the more stress and responsibility I’d be able to handle – at any age.

But the frailty of old age plays havoc with this theory. For physical frailty and pain affects everything – the ability to walk, to see and hear clearly, and the speed with which the brain functions – not to mention all information from a lifetime of experience and learning which clutters the brain. All of these factors make tasks like travel, shopping, and caring for others increasingly difficult. Yes, getting old is like wearing a bomb-disposal suit all the time. So, go easy on the old folks.

There are many more legitimate applications of this concept. Therefore we should be slow to criticize the performance of others when they do not match our own. For we have no idea of the hurdles they must negotiate and battles they fight to accomplish their work.


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, again I must ask for Your help in getting a handle on my critical and judgmental spirit. Please forgive my condemnation of others and soften my heart, so that I will lavish praise and affirmation on others to encourage them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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