A Lesson in Humility
I awoke this morning feeling refreshed, something I rarely feel, as swung my feet out over the bed. My foggy morning brain quickly did a body scan. At 52, there usually isn’t a pain free day. Today was different, and I was excited to wake up feeling this good.
Yesterday’s Nor’easter left our little town blanketed under ten inches of snow, give or take.
I feel good enough to shovel out today.
I headed for my morning cup of coffee and then out to survey the task before me. Stepping out onto the deck, I blinked into the whiteness. The sheer volume overwhelmed me.
Just start where you are, Dawn.
I dug in, breaking down through the crust as I pushed my first shovelful.
Oh man, the heavy stuff. Contract your abs, lift with your knees, I reminded myself.
I went at it for what seemed like an hour, sweating into my LL Bean jacket and wishing I had worn a simple t-shirt rather than a sweatshirt underneath. Soon, I could hear a few others in the neighborhood firing up their snow blowers. A gentlemen from the next block made his way on the street behind my house, clearing sidewalks and driveways as he went. I smiled at his good deed. Out front, two men across the street divided and conquered. They came up the same side street and went opposite directions, each laying bare the sidewalks below.
Across from them, I labored in front of my own house, manually turning the shovel over. I was growing weary and could no longer heave a loaded shovel in any direction.
Contract your abs, lift with your knees, I kept repeating.
I could feel my hernia bulge beneath my coat. When the spasms came, I leaned on my shovel and breathed slowly, scanning the neighborhood. No one stirred except the snow blowing brigade and the postal worker coming toward me with a box.
“Good morning! This is for you!”
I gazed up through my foggy, darkened lenses at her smile. Dumping my package inside the front door, I returned to the sidewalk. The men had disappeared. Engines noises had died.
Soon I had cleared all that fronted my property. I surveyed my work, pleased that I was able to see concrete and decided it was time for a warm up and something to eat. After a rest, I would attempt to free my car from the driveway between the houses. No sooner had I closed the front door behind me, a plow truck sped by throwing a wave of slush and snow onto the walkway, undoing my work.
This is the part of the story where I’d like to tell you I behaved beautifully, gracefully.
Alas, I cannot.
Long gone was the cheerful, optimistic woman who started her day grateful and pain free. Socks covered in snow balls were frozen to my toes. My nose was running, and my hair had turned into a stringy mess under my hat. My abdominal muscles were spasming and bulging. Not in a “she works out” kind of way, rather more of a “she really needs to plank more” way. Hours of labor and no gain, that’s what I was thinking. Hours of contracting my abs and guarding my hernia, only to have the sidewalk covered in the blink of an eye.
I was angry. Oddly, I was angry at the snow-blowing men more than the plow truck driver. He was just doing his job, I reasoned. I needed to point my anger somewhere. I aimed it at men with the snow blowers. They had let me struggle out there. They had let me labor in vain.
I realize at this point I was no longer making any sense. I didn’t care. In typical fashion, I picked up my phone. Despite the weakness in my forearms and fingers, and the pain I felt with each letter I pressed, I shot off a long rant to my friend.
Chivalry is dead, I typed. I went on to tell her of my morning.
And then, not feeling as though I’d complained quite enough, I sent another text to my sister and repeated the whole thing. People had to know, for crying out loud! Someone had to know how hard I had worked and how terrible I felt.
Well, didn’t they?!
So this is where I can tell you The Good Part.
No, not on my part. I was still having a small conniption in my head. I may have been done acting out with mad text messages but inside, I’m ashamed to say, I was still buzzing like an angry hornet. No, this was my But God moment.
I always love a But God moment, don’t you?
“Do you forget that Joe is over there?!?”
My sister’s 20-something son lives in an apartment one block from my house.
Why hadn’t I remembered that, I mused. I think it’s because I was pridefully determined to show my husband how well I could take care of myself in his absence during a snowstorm. Truthfully, my nephew Joe never even entered my mind.
“He’s at work now but will be done at one. He can maneuver the snowblower.”
Did I forget to mention that earlier in the story?
Yes, we own a snowblower.
In my defense, however, it’s incredibly too big and bulky for my 5’7″ frame and my weak abdominals, and my overworked arms. I never even bothered to fire it up this morning.
Don’t judge me.
“I just kept repeating ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ as I worked,” I answered.
“Sometimes Christ strengthens you with help from others!”
My sister was right. I knew she was. She might be my younger sister, but so often the stuff she says is spot on.
“I’ll supply him with a some Christmas mad money,” I tell her.
Turns out, my nephew could use a little Christmas blessing himself. A blessing he may not have gotten via his Aunt Dawn had those gentlemen with the snow blowers done as I had wanted them to and rescued me from my distress.
You see how God did that?
I tend to miss it when God’s trying to bless me. I tend to miss it even more when He’s trying to use me to bless someone else.
I miss the mark when I allow anger and frustration to take over. I miss it when I try to do things in my own power. I miss it when I don’t surrender even the most seemingly mundane things to Him. I miss it most of all when I want to blame others for something.
I long for the level of intimacy that has me seeking how He wants me to proceed with my day, that has me asking before proceeding. I long for the intimacy that considers Him first, others second, and myself last. But oh, how I just react. Forget. Charge ahead.
I can be pretty full of myself.
I’d like to think He was rather amused watching my futile attempts to work in my own strength. Lovingly, not condescendingly. Patiently waiting.
When that wave of wet heavy snow crashed down onto my newly shoveled sidewalk, when I sank into the sofa wanting to cry, when I spewed my anger and frustration in the direction of my friend and my sister…when I came to the end of all of that…God was waiting.
Sometimes when we are someone else’s blessing, it requires that we be brought low. In need. Desperate. Hurt. At the end of our strength and ability. Normally, we want to do our blessing from a point of power, as if we’re bestowing some greatness on someone less fortunate. This is the very best But God lesson of all. He is the only one who gets that position…giving from His grace, His abundance, His goodness. Sometimes, we get that opportunity. But sometimes God does both the giver and the receiver a favor by putting the one to bless in a low place. It’s called humility, and we don’t handle it well. But I’m reminded as I type this that Jesus served from this very place. And I’m learning that this is where we have the most intimacy with Him.