Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Lessons Learned at the Pace of Grace

Written by: on October 13, 2020

Five years ago, at this time, I was midway through a grueling 28-week training schedule for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge. Preparing for this challenge was exhausting and exhilarating. The run was being hosted on my 45thbirthday weekend, and involved completing a 5K, 10K, ½ marathon, and marathon over the course of four consecutive days. The most exciting part was that the marathon was on my actual birthday, so the thought of having six sparkly medals draped around my neck sounded like a great idea when I registered for the event. I had run one marathon and many ½ marathons prior to this crazy endeavor. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but somewhere along training mile gazillion, I realized how wrong I was.

Venturing out into new territory is scary, especially if you have no idea what’s ahead. But venturing out into territory with preconceived expectations and then having all those expectations disintegrate, well that was terrifying.

The number of times I wanted to quit were countless.

My feet were tired, my body ached, and I dreaded running in heat, rain, and freezing sleet. I detested when the wind blew too hard and the bathroom stops were too far away. Mentally gearing up for 4 to 5-hour runs was tough, because the reality is, I am a slow runner. In fact, if you saw me run, you might call me more of a shuffler. Regardless, I kept to the schedule and made my way to start day at Disney World.

Renner and D’Souza note, “For explorers, surviving in the unknown is only possible with the support of others.”[1]Thankfully I did not run all those unchartered miles alone. My husband agreed to join me in the endeavor, and along the way we met a new friend who was doing the Goofy Challenge (1/2 marathon and marathon back to back) and needed running partners. The three of us would head out each weekend for long runs. Accountability, encouragement, and having freedom to vent frustrations along the way were key components to succeeding in the adventure.

Another layer of community was added when my husband and I felt led to raise funds for our friends’ ministry. We knew what we were doing was crazy, and we believed people would join us in making that crazy extra good. Over 100 people gave funds and on the morning of the marathon, we woke to discover we’d achieved our goal of raising $16,000. The thought of not running the marathon crossed my mind more than once that morning. I knew just because I’d felt excellent the previous three days, 26.2 miles was no joke going to be hard.

When we arrived at the start line at 5:15am, it was 68 degrees hot with 90% humidity. Vastly different conditions than which we’d trained. At mile 4, I had to slow my already slow pace as my body began to physically shut down. By mile 13, I was forced to walk the rest of the way. Knowing many were counting on me and cheering me on, I kept moving even as the tears rolled down my face. My disappointment was immense.

Still, at the pace of walking, I was able to visit with my brother (who also did the Goofy Challenge) and interact with other struggling runners. I shared my extra food and water supplies and prayed with those who were in tears, as they struggled to finish. I didn’t know if any of us would actually finish, but I believed it possible. By Grace, hand-in-hand with my husband and brother, I crossed the finish line and earned all the sparkly medals.

More important than the medals are the transformative takeaways. I learned steady physical movement leads to deep internal silence; battling the demons of doubt and despair can end in victory; goodness and grace reside in the hardest of hard, transforming what seems unbearable into something altogether holy; asking for help, counting on others, and celebrating each mile-marker passed is integral to adventuring well; and lastly, slowing to the pace of grace provides serendipitous moments where the veil between heaven and earth is removed and the love of God is poured out in the most unexpected ways.



[1] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza. Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity. (London, UK: LID Publishing, Ltd., 2016) 148.

About the Author

Darcy Hansen

10 responses to “Lessons Learned at the Pace of Grace”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    You never know who you’re going to come alongside with in the Journey. One of the things I always cherished about my summers in Hong Kong with my previous organization was the team culture that was woven into the fabric of the experience. I found it amazing how God would bring random people from around the US and bring them to Hong Kong for just a time as this. The support and love each of my teams showed for one another gave me one of my first true glimpses of the body of Christ and what it looked like to do life together.

    Even though the summer experience was just for five weeks, we always described the summer as a pressure cooker in how fast it pushed us to be a team. Did we have our conflicts? Boy did we. Were tears shed? Almost every night. But we also had a bond that went deeper than anything most of us had previously experienced.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Community is key, especially in leadership. Yet so many leaders are isolated and alone. Not sure how many have such an intense opportunity to bond with others the way you did in your HK team interactions. Few have solid supports in place to uphold them along the way. I think that is why so many step off the ministry path or burnout along the way. What does it look like for us to come alongside those leaders to give them space to be seen and cared for so they can finish the race?

  2. Greg Reich says:

    In 1968 a man named John Steven Akhwari represented Tanzania in the Olympic marathon. He fell and gashed his knee, he limped across the finish line well over and hour after the winner in last place. There were very few people around to cheer him on. They asked him why persisted in running after being hurt. His response was, “My country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5000 miles to finish the race.” Besides the fellowship and support what was it deep inside that pushed you too finish?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Lots of grit (I come from a family of bootstrap puller-uppers) and huge amounts of God’s grace (so many prayers spoken and answered) and some singing and dancing to lighten the way:) I’ve found laughter amongst good people makes any difficult situation more bearable.

  3. Shawn Cramer says:

    This post makes me want to know the history of our culture’s obsessive doing. I imagine it has something to do with the Industrial Revolution, and the invention of the light bulb, but those seem insufficient. Do you know any of the other pieces?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Its puppy pick up weekend here- so apologies for my delayed response:) Interesting question. I’m not sure what you mean though? Are you referring to our human drive to go to extremes and push beyond capabilities, or Disney commercialism that capitalizes on people’s need to escape the doldrum of their mundane, overworked lives and thus run ridiculous distances? Please clarify if you have a chance.

  4. John McLarty says:

    Good grief- you’re insane! I’m not a runner, but your post resonated because of similar experiences of hard training, the support of community, the disappointment of having to slow down or radically alter the plans, along with the joy of achievement. What is it about us that sets these arbitrary timelines for ourselves that cause us to push the pace? I do this all the time when I’m on a long drive. It becomes more important to “make it on time” (even when I’m the only one who know what that means,) than to appreciate the sights of the road.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      General leadership principles are woven throughout that experience, for sure. Sometimes the timelines are self-imposed- but often someone has set them, and we do our best to complete the task in the time allotted. At Disney, if a runner doesn’t stay on pace, they have a bus that will pick you up and then you’re not able to complete the course. The goal is always to NOT be picked up by the bus! In your ministry experience of launching various initiatives and sermon series and campaigns, seems timelines abound. How to operate in a sane manner within them is the biggest challenge. Asking for help, as humbling as it can be, does seem to be a huge way to get things done!

  5. Chris Pollock says:

    Slowing to the pace of grace. I love the sound of that. Feeling utterly destroyed can bring us there.

    It’s ok to slow down and, even stop sometimes!

    God knows what we are capable of and will not put us to a greater challenge than what we are able to handle. ‘We’ push ourselves to the brink and over it sometimes.

    Listening to the ‘Coach’ to a slow a little, there’s reason for it. Had you kept your running pace, do you think you would have been able to finish? Or, do you think it’s possible that you may have crumbled to the sidelines?

    In the stillness…

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I think I’d gently push back on the idea “God knows what we are capable of and will not put us to a greater challenge than what we are able to handle.” In my experience, God often asks way more of me than I can handle, yet by Grace and through abundant provision and total dependance on God, things turn out- Did God always know it would happen that way? I suppose so- but on my end- rarely do I feel that I’m truly able to make it through an overwhelming challenge without God’s overwhelming grace and huge measures of faith.

      If I had kept pace, my kidneys would likely been damaged and my dignity stripped while puking in the median of the road. Could I have finished? Not sure, but if I did, I wouldn’t have been smiling, upright, and self-propelled. When all goes south- goals have to shift.

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