By: Chris Adsit
Let me tell you about the man who tried to kill me.
I had just entered my sophomore year at Colorado State University. I was a hurdler on the track team, and had experienced moderate success my freshman year, placing 5th at the Western Athletic Conference Championships. Our new coach, Del Hessel, wanted to have a one-to-one meeting with each of his athletes – to get to know us and find out what each of our athletic goals were. Athletic goals? I’d never thought about them. My concept of college track was: go to workouts Monday through Friday, compete on Saturday, and if no one is faster than you, you win!
But I figured this new coach probably wanted to hear something more definitive. So when it was my turn to chat with him and he asked the question, I replied, “Coach, I want to go to the Olympics in the 400 meter intermediate hurdles.” I reckoned that would impress the heck out of him.
But from the moment I uttered those words, my relationship with Del Hessel went downhill fast. The theme of our association quickly became: “KILL ADSIT.” He began staying up late at night devising evil ways to torture me. He forced me to run in the mountains, lift heavy weights, sprint stadium stairs, and do repeat quarter-miles. He made me eat food that I did not love, and go to sleep earlier than I wanted. He demanded I jump over thousands of hurdles. Through all this, he remained deaf to my pleas for mercy.
What had prompted this onslaught? I had simply shared this pleasant idea about the Olympics, and rather than applauding and saying nice things like, “Good luck, Chris—hope you do well,” he undertakes a diabolical scheme of pain and torment!
Which was exactly what I needed and wanted.
The Easy Way
Del Hessel knew something about human nature: we all tend to seek out the path of least resistance. On my own, I never would have worked hard enough to become a great athlete—or even an average one. But because of his three years of attempted murder, I became an All-American by my senior year. Not quite an Olympian, but close. And I hold Del Hessel in high esteem, because he was one of the few men in my life who was willing to take the initiative with me, hold me accountable, and push me toward my goals.
There are all types of goals: athletic, financial, educational, personal fitness, spiritual, health, lifestyle, employment, etc. If you truly want to achieve your goals, you know that you must put yourself in some kind of an accountability structure. Without accountability, when the going gets tough, you’ll go take a nap.
What about the goals that have to do with healing from trauma you’ve experienced in the past? Are those goals any different? If you’ve spent any time at all around REBOOT, you know that we frequently bang the drum about the need for intentionality. Achieving trauma-healing goals requires work, consistency, self-monitoring, discipline, perseverance, and a mindset of faith and dependency on God.
I needed a Del Hessel in my life to push me toward my athletic objectives. You need someone like him to help you achieve your healing objectives. The goals I accomplished during my athletic career are way in the past. But the effects of accomplishing your healing goals will set you up for success for the rest of your life. You can plug into many different programs, keep checklists, read books, make promises to yourself, and have high hopes. But unless you’ve got another human being with a whistle and a clipboard motivating you onward and upward, you are probably not going to see much change.
“But wait a minute,” you might be saying. “What about the Holy Spirit? Isn’t He the one that’s going to transform me, and make me like Jesus?” That is definitely Plan A. I have often experienced the direct action of the Spirit of God on my spirit which enlightened me, motivated me, induced me to repent and obey, and moved me a little further down the line toward spiritual maturity. But here is the reality of Spirit-led transformation: when God’s Spirit is speaking to us, we have the ability to turn down His volume knob. We can “quench” and “grieve” the Spirit if we so choose, and carry on our merry way toward eventual destruction.
Stupid Signs – Ignoring the Spirit
Several years ago a group of us were in Yosemite, camped near the base of a huge granite rock formation known as Half Dome. It rises 4,737 feet straight up above the floor of Yosemite Valley. As we were setting up our camp for the night, we would occasionally hear this strange whooshing sound that would last for eight or ten seconds, and then end with a boom. We figured it was jets breaking the sound barrier, even though we never saw any.
The next morning we decided we would go to the very base of Half Dome and – just for fun – see how far up a huge diagonal crack we could climb. As we were hiking up to the cliff wall, we saw a sign that said, “TRAIL CLOSED. DO NOT PROCEED.” We were quite disappointed and concluded that this was some stupid sign that the park had forgotten to take down. Everything looked fine to us. So we decided to ignore the sign and continued our trek up the trail.
When we got to the base of the cliff, we once again heard that whooshing sound. I thought, “Alright! Now we’ll be able to see what’s making that noise!” It got louder and louder, until suddenly bathtub-sized chunks of ice were smashing down all around us! We dove away from the cliff face and down the slope. It’s a miracle that none of us died that day! Apparently, there was an ice sheet on top of Half Dome that was gradually melting and sliding off the top and chunks of it were free-falling for 4700 feet.
Then we realized the intended function of that sign: to keep us alive. It did a lousy job, right? It was easy for us to ignore its wise counsel, and it didn’t do a thing to stop us. What we needed was a park ranger there with a gun, who would explain to us why we had better not go up that trail, and tackle us if we tried!
Well, that park ranger was there, in a way. He’d placed that sign as an extension of his protective will. In the same way, the Holy Spirit speaks to us directly in our hearts and minds and through His Word in an effort to guide us. However, we often abuse our free will. And when we choose to ignore Him, He resorts to a method whose volume knobs are not so easily accessed: other people.
There are so many places in the Bible that talk about the benefits – and even the necessity – of having a Spirit-led companion who will hold you accountable and push you toward your good goals. Here’s one of my favorites:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Who is your Del Hessel, pushing you to your goals? Who’s the one that you can trust to lift you up when you fall, warm you up when memories of your trauma freeze you, stand back-to-back with you to fight for you when you’re attacked, and entwine their life with yours and the Holy Spirit’s to keep you from snapping when the load gets too heavy? If you don’t already have someone like that in your life, start praying that God will supply one, and then keep your eyes open. They may seem like an executioner at first, but believe me – God will use them to strengthen, stabilize, and heal you!
Chris with Coach Hessel, flanked by two teammates, as Chris was inducted into the CSU Athletic Hall of Fame. We all love Del – in spite of, and because of – what he did to us!