Sometimes I think God is trying to send us a message by allowing bad things to happen in our lives.
Sometimes I just think he is mean spirited and playing games with the devil to torment us and see if we will still be faithful. At moments like those I don’t trust God and feel resentful, but I still love him and try to be patient and work through my problems without blaming higher ups so to speak!
This weekend was another lesson in humility. Last week I ran my slowest 5k ever and just could not find the energy or power to speed myself up. An old hip injury had resurfaced the day after the run and it only seemed to get worse not better.
Thursday night I prayed to God to make me better, just enough to be able to run the next trail run on Saturday, a race I had promised to enter over two months ago to raise funds to repair the Rails to Trails near Tybee, plus I had planned to stay and photograph the event to give it more coverage.
I had really wanted to run the 25k race, but every time I tried to increase my mileage I could feel something was not right and backed off for fear the dreaded hip injury that took six months to correct would resurface again.
I woke up Friday morning feeling better than I had all week, but when I tried to run the hip caught again, making me limp and making it impossible to step up with the bad left leg without a twisting sharp pain.
I hated that I could not run normally like everyone else. I wanted to be a fast runner. I wanted to be a long distance runner again. I had tasted it once with the Rock N Roll half marathon. I wanted to continue to run races and couldn't understand why God did not want to grant me this privilege. What would it harm him to allow me to run? What had I done so wrong that I was not allowed to do the thing I loved? Was I being punished and if so for what? Was I too boastful, too proud, did I really need to be humbled?
I already felt like I was on the bottom rung of humility endurance. Did Christ really want to kick me down on my back to prove my vulnerability and his power?
Yes, I was a little angry with the 'power that be', but I went to the race Saturday with the leg feeling better and when the race started I managed to keep a slow running pace, with just a little pain, but could not get enough air into my lungs and dropped further and further back until my hip began to lock again.
If my foot went slightly off balance, a sharp pain struck the hip, at one point bringing a less than muffled cry of pain as my left foot turned numb and tingly and the heavy fog seemed to weigh me down as each step became more and more labored and I finally gave up and walked as several people passed me.
Two miles into the race I decided to run again and not stop until I crossed the finish line. I hurt so badly that I did not even notice I had run right by the Fort and not even seen it, though the fog outside my brain may have had something to do with that.
All I could think about was crossing that finish line so I could stop being in pain. I even passed by the water table without taking a drink and cringed as volunteers encouraged, “good job, keep on moving.”
I knew I was not doing a good job. I knew I should give up and walk. I was not enjoying the run or the scenery. The only thing that broke me out of my funk was a flock of spoonbilled birds flying past that I had never seen in Savannah before.
That sight reminded me to praise God for all the diversity of life and appreciate the things I did have and not get upset over all the things I wanted and could not achieve no matter how hard I tried.
I was embarrassed more than humiliated or humbled as I crossed the finish line amid weak cheers, sort of pity cheers I call them and a sharp, “show your number” as I lifted up my shirt which had once again covered my “race” number… ‘like it really mattered,’ I thought. I hadn’t won anything.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I drug my bad leg behind me. No one seemed to notice or care.
I went over to the nearest table with water and bananas and even celery and bread and picked up a paper cup and began to put Gatorade from a large orange canister into my cup, when a woman said, “Oh, you can’t drink that it is for the ultra runners.”
The canister with its push in lever over the spout was situated level with the table edge, so I was only able to get two or three drops of liquid into the cup and was in the process of tilting the cup to fit it under the spout and stopped and felt embarrassed and a little hurt that I was being turned away from the table.
I assumed that meant I could also not eat a banana which looked pretty good considering I had skipped breakfast thinking there would be refreshments after the race.
The woman pointed to a small stack of water bottles still wrapped in plastic and blocked from view behind some equipment and said, “Five K runners can get water from there…”
I confess the words in my head were not Christianly as I thought, ‘you can keep your d_ _ _ _ water’, and crushed the cup in my hand as I fought back tears and headed toward my truck, ready to chuck the idea of staying and watching the ultra runners and just going home and pouting, but I had seen some running friends whom I was fond of and wanted to stay and talk to them, so went to the truck, discarded the crumpled paper cup along with my bitterness, took a swig of water out of a half empty water bottle from last weeks race that had rolled under the truck seat and told myself to buck up and be nice and not take it to heart that the water for 5k runners was hidden and hard to get to, while a sumptuous banquet was set out by the finish line with no signs saying it was off limits for some and not others.
In short, it was like the parable in the Bible about a feast being laid out, but that those who sat at the main table or the front row, were asked to move because those tables were reserved for those who were more deserving.
It hurt, not so much my leg, or my pride, but that I was not good enough once again to receive any sort of reward for my pathetic efforts and that none of my past races, though nothing to brag about were recognized, only that I was the slow old lady who had no business running with real runners who put in the time and effort to be fit and fast as a good runner should be.
I was still wanting to cry when my friends greeted me warmly and said nothing of my poor performance, but instead shared interesting news and studies and made me feel welcome.
Later they gave me a ride to the main trail where the ultra was being run and I got out and walked another six miles taking photos of every runner I saw as they greeted me with friendly smiles and thanked me for coming out to support them and take photos with several even telling me, “good job” when it was they who were putting in all the effort and being so humble that I felt like I did not deserve the compliments, but they did.
I realized that winning medals and posting fast times and outrunning all the slow and out of shape people was not something God really wanted for me and medals would not last and just ended up being clutter years down the line.
What God really wanted was for me to use my talents to serve others. I could take pictures and share them with others, to tell a story and support a cause and make people feel good about their efforts, even when they felt like me, that they did not do good enough or were not in the same category as the other runners who posted faster times.
I won’t lie, I still want to be able to run again and compete, not just look at the pretty scenery. I want to win medals and have my picture taken next to my friends, wearing skin tight running shirts and compression socks instead of the baggy shorts and loose pull over to hide my bulging thighs, butt and belly.
I want to be thin, young, attractive, the life of the party, strong, fast, witty, funny. I want to be noticed and praised, yet when people praise me I feel embarrassed or wonder what their problem is that they are too silly to see that I am no different than anyone else and that life is just as much a hit and miss for me as for anyone.
Being praised, winning things, being admired are all nice, but they don’t fulfill you like doing something to help someone else and doing it for the soul purpose of making someone’s day a little more joyous and bringing a smile to their face or helping them to see that it isn't always about winning or even doing your best, but just about showing up and accepting what God has to offer without turning it away as not good enough for you.
The next Sunday in church we studied Philippians chapter two as Paul commands, “be humble and think of others as better than yourselves.”
That is not easy to do. It is easy, or at least possible to think of yourself as equal to others and not greater, but to put yourself beneath others and be happy with it is not something many humans, especially this one, can pull off easily.
The world convinces us that all men are created equal, not that some are better than others, but the trick is, if all of us would look at others as more important than ourselves, then no one would have to feel lesser than someone else. It’s kind of like looking at one of those mirror portraits, where the picture just keeps going and going for eternity without any end.
Humility is like that; it just keeps on going and never ends. Maybe it is because we just don’t get the lesson it tries to teach or maybe we just need a refresher course in what is really important in life.
It is so hard for me to put myself beneath others when I want to share in the same things. To be told I cannot have what others have because it is not meant for me is something that is hard for me to accept, but I know that if I love and honor my creator, I have to be humble and let go of the need for greatness and power.
So who knows what the future holds, or what humbling event will happen next. I may be stranded on the side of the road as no one stops to help me. My home may burn to the ground and I may have to live in a tent. I may lose my job and be broke again. The things I hold dear may be taken away from me and like Job, I will be expected to praise God, not question him, but knowing me I can guarantee I will get mad at God and demand to know the reason why I am being treated like a second class citizen when I am trying my best to do everything right and instead of getting rewarded, just get kicked back to the gutter again and again.
Still, when you are in the gutter it is easier to reach out to others who are stuck there with you and remind them that they are loved, that they have purpose, and it is not necessarily their fault they are there.
Humility demands a lot from us. We are taught to be proud of our nation and proud of our accomplishments, but to be humble about our greatness.
No one ever tells us to be humble that we are beneath others, rather we are told that if we want to succeed in life, we need to take pride in ourselves, so God ask us to do something that is foreign to us and it is often hard to comply.
No one likes to feel beneath others, but that is the best place you can be if your goal is to lift up those who have fallen.
If you are so high up you are only looking ahead and looking out for those up there with you and never look back, you can never reach down and lift up the people who need to be lifted up the most, which is what we as Christians are called to do.
I know that winning the race to life everlasting in heaven with God is more important than placing first in my age category at a race with less than 200 people, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to raise myself up to a higher position here on earth, so I guess maybe I do need to be constantly humbled to stay focused on the things that are really important to God and not so much to me.
Humility is often equated with humiliation, rather than humbleness. The difference between the two is that when you are humble you readily accept that you are not the be all to end all, but when you are humiliated, you assume you are the bees knees and find out you are the horse's hind end.
I'd rather be on my knees in humble obedience than proudly passing wind and thinking everyone enjoyed inhaling it. Still, I have much need for improvement in my spiritual life and being humbled on a near daily basis may seem like cruel punishment, but just like a lump of metal cannot be formed into a beautiful work of art without some pounding, I guess I can take a beating and leave the final form I take in God's hands, but oh, how hard that is to do!