Most of us have taken a lot of first steps in life. Before you did though, you probably did a lot of crawling. You first stood on wobbly legs, fell down, and got banged up too many times to count before you confidently let go of the objects that steadied you and focused on where you wanted to go. A good many of us have gone (often kicking and screaming) places we didn’t want to go. The majority of us have gone places we probably should not have gone. Some of us have gone places and were later glad we did. What motivates you? Why did or do you persist? Why did you keep getting back up amidst all the bruised and banged up knees (or do you)? The desire for something more must surely have spurred you on. Your hope of triumph helped you overcome your fear of pain, failure, or the great unknown.
Today our Pastor reminded me of a time in my life (and there have been a few), when I was “going through hell.” Some of those times are too personal to share in this venue, but there is one I’ll share and I hope it will inspire you. One of my proudest and most triumphant moments came when I passed the Physical Ability Test (PAT) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA. Perhaps this would be no big feat to someone in their 20’s who had always been physically fit and healthy. However, I was taking the same test at age 56 that most of my peers took in their 20’s and 30’s with no allowance for age or that fact that I was 50 plus pounds overweight. There was also no allowance for the severe valgus deformity (“knock knees”) that had been a constant source of pain or even the asthma triggered from exercise and breathing cold air. I considered myself fortunate that there was an age waiver for Registered Nurses during a nursing shortage.
The first time I went to take this test (on Valentine’s Day 2007), I tore my right rotator cuff and had to be sent home. I was crushed; I returned home without triumph and feeling like such a failure. Ordinarily if you fail this test, you also lose your job. However, mine was a Worker’s Comp injury, which gave me another opportunity. In the months ahead, I had rotator cuff repair, then spent the next 6 months going to PT twice a week for rehabilitation. My ultimate goal was more than simply rehabilitating my shoulder, it was preparing me to retake and pass this test.
During those months, many of my co-workers questioned me almost daily. “Why do you want to do this?” “You could always get a job somewhere else.” “Why put yourself through this?” My mind translated these remarks to “You shouldn’t do this.” “This job isn’t for you.” “You don’t belong here.” “You’re too old” and “Are you crazy?” They might just as well have said those exact words to me. So in my most discouraged moments, I could hear my mother’s voice deep inside me as she would equate these remarks to “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Sometimes you need to use your own stubbornness to your benefit.
By January 2008, my shoulder was finally rehabilitated and I was as ready as I was ever going to be to return to FLETC. I boarded the plane to GA with a great deal of anxiety and fear of failure and/or re-injury. There were friends and family in prayer on my behalf. Since I have never been a runner, had knees that were 23 degrees out of normal alignment , asthma and was carrying too many extra pounds, I was more than a little afraid.
Successful completion of self defense training, fire arms qualification (M-16, 9MM and 12-gauge shotgun) , the PAT and a written exam are all part of the required training.
Of those requirements, the PAT is the first hurdle. If you don’t pass, you go straight home, unemployed.
The Physical Abilities Test
- Dummy Drag – drag a 75-pound dummy 3 minutes continuously for a minimum of 694 feet.
- Climb and Grasp – climb rungs of a ladder and retrieve an item (contraband) – ideal requirement 7 seconds.
- Obstacle Course – ideal requirement 58 seconds. (Where I tore my rotator cuff jumping over a desk, going under tables, weaving around objects, locking and unlocking doors)
- Run and Cuff – run one-fourth mile and apply handcuffs to a non-combative “prisoner” – ideal requirement 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
- Stair Climb – participant, with a 20-pound weight belt, will climb up and down 108 steps – ideal requirement 45 seconds.
I will never ever, ever forget the PAT. It was a defining moment and a crossroad in my life. My second trip back to FLETC, I failed the PAT by 8/10th of a second. You heard me correctly. Just 8/10th of a second and there was no benefit of the doubt. At this point, my instructors had to notify my institution that I had failed the first attempt (without injury). I had only one more attempt to pass it. There was no such thing as retaking the part you didn’t pass. A retake meant I had to do the whole thing over again. Since I had been unsuccessful getting the completion time down on my run and cuff to under 3 minutes, my only hope to pass was to exceed on all the other components of the test. The “prayer warriors” I knew began to pray for me fervently. I knew it and I could feel it.
Later I learned that the Human Resources Director at my institution, (upon learning of my failure on the first attempt), closed his office door and began praying “Lord, we need this one here.” It still brings tears to my eyes every time I remember his intercessory prayer on my behalf. There were many of those prayers offered for me during that time. I imagine it was like George Bailey’s friends in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We all need friends who will lift us up (in prayer is even better), cheer for us, and genuinely want us to be successful.
I reached a point in my run when everything in my body (especially my lungs) was screaming that I should “just stop running” and “just quit.” It was at this moment that I claimed the verse in Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Over and over and over again, I said these words in my head as I was rounding that track. The second verse I heard was from Hebrews 12:1 (NIV); “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
It was then that I began to hear my classmates yelling and cheering for me, but the voice I heard above them all was my FLETC instructor. From all the way across the field I could hear his booming voice “IT’S JUST ONE MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE, PAM! DON’T QUIT! These were the voices of angels here on Earth, sent just to encourage me. Sir Winston Churchill once said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Translated, this means at the moment you want to quit the most or are in the most pain, don’t stop and set up camp surrounded by your misery. Press on, get through it, and reap the reward of triumph on the other side.For double emphasis, indeed this was a defining moment in my life. It was both a miracle (considering all my obtacles) and a crossroad. God parted the waters and delivered me “through the Red Sea” that day.
No person who ever passed the PAT is more grateful than I or was more humbled by their own disadvantages. After running the race with perseverance, it is fitting that Hebrews 12:2 continues: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” This was the triumph of Jesus. He endured the hell of the cross with a goal in mind. His test was far greater than anything I endured with the PAT.
Where do you want to go? What will you endure in order to get there? Is the triumph of the goal ahead worth the pain and sacrifice? Will you keep going amidst all the obstacles to success? Do you have friends who will lift you up along that journey and spur you on along the journey (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)?
Godspeed on your journey
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like to read: Sack Race-Rookie-Triathlete-Marathoner: Run Your Race Like a Winner
Posted in Mindset by Pam Baker-Redman with 2 comments.