Thursday, September 06, 2012

Pushing Thirty: Happy to be Humbled, Part 2


"How was the 5k?” asks random person.

“I came in dead last, but it was still good,” I reply.

“You weren’t dead last; there were walkers behind you,” chimes in my dear husband. 

Thanks, honey. The only folks slower than me are the ones walking. And yet, this race I “ran” in (that might be a slight overstatement, perhaps “jogged” is more appropriate) a few weeks ago has been good. 

My husband, who is preparing to run a half marathon this weekend, wanted to run the 5k as a sprint run.  So I thought, what the heck, I’ll join him.  Just a few weeks of training and I’ll be ready.  Can I just say that running 3.1 miles on the road is to 20 minutes on the elliptical what a five-course meal is to frozen pizza?  So I had to work pretty hard in those weeks leading up to race day.

On race day, as I’m bringing up the rear around the first curve (somebody’s gotta do it!), I’m realizing that I have two options.  Give up or press on.  Normally, my instinct is to give up, hide, walk away from all things related to “personal failure”. That’s my fall-back.  Yet I didn’t really like that option. The problem was that I realized early on that I didn’t have the personal discipline it would take to press on.  So I started to pray.  Lord, help!  There’s no way I can do this thing without walking and within my goal time, but will you please just keep me from dying out here?  Oh, and maybe help me finish the race, too?

As I continued on that trail, something changed in my heart.  It was like a long-treasured possession was being pried out of my fingers. That nasty, life-killing little possession resembles pride, vanity, the need for personal glory.  And though I’ve clung to it for almost 30 years now, I am happy to say that it is finally beginning to make its exit.  (I say “beginning” because I think it will be a long road before it will be truly gone, and quite possibly not in this life.)  Instead of that destructive desire to compare myself with others, I began to be concerned with doing my best, using my physical exertion as an act of worship, and putting one foot in front of the other as an act of faith that the God who promises to make our feet like the feet of the deer would help carry me to the finish line. (Ps. 18:33)

In the end, I kind of liked the race.  It’s really good for me to do something at which, when viewed from the world’s concept of performance and success, I’m just plain terrible. It’s another step toward humility, which, I discovered at the finish line, brings freedom.  The first thought as I set foot across that line was that I had, miraculously, just jogged the whole thing.  And the first (very surprised) words out of my mouth to my sweaty husband were, “I made my goal!!”

Running has made very plain to me that I do not take a step down that trail by my strength alone, but by the strength God provides. This reality is seeping into other aspects of my life wherein I see the grace of God holding me up, putting breath into my lungs, moving those legs along in ways I’ve never noticed. Somehow, I always thought it was just me, super-talented and fantastic me, doing those things.  I’m happy to be humbled because it means I see more clearly on the day-to-day the hundreds of ways God Himself is working in, around, and through me to accomplish His purposes, which are, much to my delight, not always without pain but definitely always good.

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