Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Humble Hill

Daniel 4:37
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Lately, I've been praying a lot about pride and humility. Study Daniel for just a little while and you will be begging for every inch of pride to be brought to the surface and destroyed. Watching the king live like a wild animal was enough for me.

Yesterday while I was running, I thought a lot about this.

Our house is on a hill, and this being a hilly area, there is no such thing as "flat land." You are either running uphill or down--it's that simple. The first mile or so of each run is downhill. Cruising along, feeling good.

But somehow, on those downhill segments I always get a swell of pride. Even though I know I will again face the Uphill Monster of Death. My stride lengthens and I imagine the people passing me in their cars saying things like, "That girl is so incredibly fast. I bet we'll see her at the Olympic Trials." (I also envision them saying "girl" instead of "exhausted-looking, 30-something, mother of two.")

Then it's about 2 miles uphill. Pain, torture, begging for the hill to end. Major ouch.

On the looooong uphills, it's a different story. I hope passersby notice I am actually running. A wave of sympathy probably washes over them as they see my slow cadence and think, "Well, at least she's trying. Maybe she's injured. Should we call 9-1-1?"

My favorite segment to run is a stretch south of all the housing developments where its just me and some stray cows. The landscape is sloping downward and after challenging my lung capacity for miles, I finally let loose and really enjoy the run without much effort.

And there's the rub: Without much effort, it feels good and easy, but my sense of accomplishment is so minimal. Going downhill is refreshing, but not defining. It's relaxing, but not always memorable. It's easy to get lost in fantasies about the Olympics and running a 3 hour marathon and how my jeans will probably fall off me next time I try to put them on.

Then there's the tougher segments. These are times when I am in prayer (between gasps for precious oxygen) just to get up the dang hill! If I'm not focused on my goal, it's not happening. To keep my body in motion, to overcome the pain in my legs and lungs, takes concentrated effort. It takes a strength greater than my own. But when I reach the top, the sense of satisfaction is unsurpassed.

As you know, what goes down, must eventually go up. And that's where the reminder of pride comes in. Just when I feel so good, like running is so easy, like I am an athletic phenomenom, the uphill confronts me. My pride shatters, and not more than ten steps into the next mountain I am effectively humbled.

Sometimes God humbles us with hills in our lives. Sometimes he allows us to search out our pride and offer it up before he lays down the law. I would rather learn from King Neb and humble myself.

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." I Peter 5:5