After watching their beloved national team lose to Germany in the World Cup semifinals by the ludicrous score of 7-1, I would imagine many Brazilian soccer fans hit rock bottom. Losing in the semis is one thing, but getting embarrassed on home soil with the whole world watching must have been gut wrenching. I’ve been to Brazil. I saw first hand how devoted they are to soccer.
I don’t expect Brazilians to lose interest in soccer or go through some life changing experience. But watching the Brazilians suffer during the German onslaught reminded me of another instance where I saw an athlete hit rock bottom.
It was a little over a dozen years when I was in Morocco reporting on the Marathon of the Sands, or Marathon de Sables, for the Outdoor Life Network. The Marathon of the Sands takes place in the Sahara desert of Morocco. Runners carry all their food, clothing and bedding on their backs as they run approximately 150 miles in a weeks time. It is a brutal endurance event and for many the hardest part of the event is the 50 miler. Elite runners finish the 50 mile leg in less than half a day. Others, good athletes who are there for the adventure and challenge, are given two days to complete the 50 miles. Some dropped out due to exhaustion or blisters, others didn’t finish until minutes before the cut off time, nine pm on the second night.
Most of the runners were European or Moroccan, but there was a handful of Americans that we covered. Two in particular, a middle aged man and a twenty something woman, were barely able to finish the 50 miles. I’ll never forget the look on the man’s face when he came into the finish camp. It was dark but his face was lit up by our camera crew. His eyes were distant and sunken, his skin drained of color. He looked horrible. He could barely keep himself upright as he headed straight for his tent and some precious sleep. He had hit rock bottom and knew it. I fully expected him to drop out of the race in the morning.
At about the same time the man finished, the twenty something woman also finished the 50 miler. Exhausted and visibly limping from a lower extremity injury, she gamely smiled for those who cheered her on as well as our cameras. I admired her determination and perseverance.
The next morning the sun rose on the stark Saharan landscape. As the athletes milled about anticipating another long day of running, I was completely taken aback by what I saw. The man, who the previous night looked like he was knocking on deaths door, had not only recovered but had rebounded from hitting rock bottom. He wasn’t as fresh as a daisy but he was ready to face the day. The young woman looked nearly identical to how she did when she finished the 50 miler – tired and sore and still limping.
Over the remaining few days of the event the man continued to run well, while the woman struggled every step of the way. The last time I saw her was at the airport in back in the U.S., days after the race had ended. She was still limping and suffering from the effects of her exertion.
I think the take away from the story is this: if we have hit rock bottom we need to admit it and quit trying to fight it. Whatever comes along in our lives that send us to the bottom, the only true way back up is to acknowledge our fallen situation and admit we need help. True help and true recovery comes from God. When we hit rock bottom we should be ready to admit our need for Him. If we try and do it on our own we’ll end up bumping along the bottom just like that girl. We’ll never rebound, never be refreshed unless we give in, give up and let God take over our lives.