Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Running with a Guide

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go..."Proverbs 3 MSG
There are times I just don't "get it." I don't get people. I don't get why the world is the way it is. I don't get where I fit in the grand scheme of things, or even on a small scale sometimes. I don't get what my purpose is. Lots of times, I don't even get myself and why my mind works the way it does.
But the nice thing about trust is that I don't have to "get it." I don't have to figure everything out (even though I hate surprises and not having things figured out). If I really think about it, what is trust? Trust is allowing myself to let go of the "whys" and the "hows" and the "whens." I'm so not good at that, but trust is a process for me.
I recently saw a video of visually impaired sprinters in the Paralympic Games. Each one had a guide--a person who ran alongside them and kept them in the correct lane as they sprinted full-speed without being able to see where they were going.What level of trust must you have in a person to guide you while you are sprinting in the dark? One of the runners, David Brown, said, "My guide is pretty much my eyes, and he's like the voice in my head." 
The metaphor of the whole thing struck me. I'm going into this race of life visually impaired. I'm trying to see everything through my filter, which is often clouded and dark. I have no idea what's ahead. I have no idea where the finish line is. All I know is the voice of my Guide. All I know is that He can see what's ahead and that He'll guide me to the finish. He's running alongside me, giving me constant gentle nudges and cues, letting me know He's there and that I'm not alone. What happens if I don't trust Him? I don't finish. I don't see the race to its end. I don't go in the direction I need to go.
I'm the first to admit that I'm not good at listening to the Guide. He's always speaking and leading, but I'm not always paying attention. But I want to. I want to be that person who can just sprint full-speed, knowing that God, my Guide, is vigilant and is always there next to me.
So if you're going through a time in your life where you feel like you're trying to feel your way around in the dark, start to listen for the quiet voice of The Guide. Don't listen to the cheering or the booing of the crowd. Don't listen to your fears. Don't listen to the "I can't" in your own head. Trust and start running. You're not alone.

(This is a photo I took of Kim Russell, a hardcore ultrarunner, whom I had the privilege of pacing on the Laurel Highlands 70-Mile Race last year. It was such a lesson to me to watch her keep moving, despite her exhaustion and her body fighting against her in the last miles. She finished under her goal time because she was able to tune out the discomfort. The perseverance required to do the longer distances, pushing past the mental aspect of a long race and your body's desire to quit, is something I hope to learn.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

On humility

Lately, the news has been full of opportunities for us, as a society, to see a lack of humility in action. 

This American presidential campaign has been rife with finger-pointing, blaming, accusation, fear-mongering, comparison, biting sarcasm...all the things that mirror our lack of humility as a society of human beings.

The Orlando attack was turned into an "I told you so" moment by a political candidate, and also became a debate on guns and Islam rather than a united push to show compassion and love to a people group that must be feeling particularly unloved and fearful at the moment.

So many fingers were pointed at the parents who let their child slip into a gorilla enclosure, or who absentmindedly left their child in a hot car or had to watch the horror of their baby being snatched up by an alligator. 

The news is full of examples of our lack of humility. We are quick to judge and say what we think and point away from ourselves. We are quick to compare, pretending as though we could never make such mistakes or allow ourselves or our loved ones to be victims. We are quick to react, slow to respond. We like to think that our political or moral or spiritual views and how loudly we can voice them somehow makes us right.

The minute we start to point fingers and ardently take what we think is the moral high ground at the expense of our souls and our compassion, it becomes clear that we have lost what it means to be humble and we are massively out of touch with our humanity. We become wrong.

Humans make mistakes. Humans are victims. Humans are perpetrators. Humans start wars. Humans are self-promoters. Humans are greedy and bitter and judgmental and opportunistic. Humans are imperfect. Humans make horrible decisions. Humans are unforgiving and brash. Humans are self-righteous.

But each of us, in our humanity, is loved more than we can imagine. Every victim in Orlando was (and is) loved. Every parent who makes a grave mistake and watches their lives change before their eyes, is loved. Each of our current political candidates (and their supporters) are loved. The people who commit acts of terrorism, though it seems hard to believe, are loved. We are all loved.

What we do with that love, despite our desire to react and spit blame, and how we give out that love is what proves whether we are humble or not. We can channel our opinions and anger away from a need to be right to a desire to be humble.

Humility is serving, not dominating. Humility is lifting others up, not tearing them down. Humility is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Humility is washing the feet of the weary and down-trodden and pulling them to their feet, when our darkest desire might be to push them further down. Humility is being quick to listen and slow to speak. Humility is realizing we are fully accepted and loved as we are, despite the fact that we are all wholly undeserving. Humility is allowing ourselves to be transparent, so that Love can shine through. 

When Jesus knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples, He was showing them that they were not alone in their struggle. That He understood what it is like to be lower, and to serve by getting his hands dirty. So when we lower ourselves to forgive or to let go of anger or to serve or just to give love instead of our opinions, we show humility. Humility is the ultimate strength. It's making the choice to not have to be right or heard. It's making the choice to turn our self-righteousness over to God's love.

If we are truly humble, that means we truly realize that we cannot pick and choose on whom we allow God's light to shine. We are meant to be glass--clear, transparent, imperfect. By letting light shine through us, even in our imperfect state, we are allowing God to take over. Those imperfections in our glass show a pattern of lessons learned, most likely in difficult circumstances, and each of our patterns is unique and tells a story. Letting other people see those cracks and flaws and wounds and seeing the light shining through us anyway is what it's all about. The purpose of humility is allowing our stories to help others realize that they are not alone in their struggle, that they are known and can be used profoundly by God--the Lover. Humility is being vulnerable.

Today, I read something on social media that truly warmed my heart. I saw a man in my friends list on Facebook who made a post about how he had finally forgiven his father for leaving and not being there for him. He released his father from the anger he'd held against him for many years. 

That took guts, but it also took humility. First, he admitted to feeling angry and bitter, but then he extended forgiveness and love to someone whom he knows doesn't deserve it. When he did that, he released himself from the hold that bitterness had had on him this whole time. This man has every right to be full of anger toward his father, as most of us would in that situation. But he made a conscious choice to extend forgiveness and to not allow himself to be ruled any longer by the effect of the feelings he'd held against his father. I so admired that humble attitude, and it made me a little embarrassed at my lack.

I am still learning humility, I'll admit it. I can be the biggest hypocrite. I'm often reactive rather than responsive. I like being right a little too much. I like to pounce on what I see as injustice and argue my opinions about causes and what can be done, rather than quietly turning my focus upon those who are right in the thick of the experience and reverently reaching to help them. I'm SO in touch with my humanity lately, and it saddens me.

But I have hope that God is teaching me, and that I'll eventually learn the strength that lies in lowering myself and humbling the parts of myself that don't want to be humbled. Falling off a high horse is painful. I only know because I've experienced it more times than I can count. 

We are all in this race together, and while we each will cross the tape alone, the support and love of our fellow runners is what points us to the grand finish, especially when--through them--we are able to see the Love that is waiting for us on the other side. Love is vulnerable.

So please, let's all try to be above the fray. No finger-pointing. No noisy debates that don't change anyone's minds anyway. No more needing to be right. Be the transparent glass, flaws and all. 

Shine on, lovelies.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back in the saddle again...

I was challenged to get back into blogging by my friend, Joe Conrad, who is a blogger himself. He's a witty guy with lots of interesting stuff to say about church and faith. Check out his blog here. He threatened me with certain death (or at least a swift, imminent excommunication from his blogging family), thus I felt compelled to write.

Really, though, I had been considering writing again, but I often feel like I don't have anything of importance to say. I have a whole file of blog drafts that I've never posted because I talked myself out of them. 

But I'll try today...

I can't sum up the entire last year in one blog post, but I guess I'll have to start somewhere...hmmm...

*taps chin* Well, here goes.

1. I now live on a farm (above photo was taken yesterday)! Holy heck, if you had told me that in 2015, I'd be moving to a place I had always driven by and dreamed about in passing, I'd say you were cray cray. But here were are! Every morning when I walk outside to the pond and see the sun peeking over the hillside that is entirely covered with trees THAT WE OWN, I am still amazed that all of this even happened. No, there aren't any barnyard animals, except four ducks that we have raised from teeny ducklings and, of course, Sedona, our trusty Beagle (who is constantly on guard against groundhogs). But we're thinking about goats. We shall see.

(PS. We're currently in the market for a decent tractor if you know of anyone who is selling one!...and add that to the list of things I never thought I'd say.)

2. I have become a trail runner! At this time last year, I had just completed my third road marathon (a marathon is 26.2 miles/42.2 kilometers) and had caught the distance-running bug. However, something in my runner soul was pushing me to try new challenges. Since I love running hills, my friend, Bob, suggested I start into trail running. So I'm now not only a six-time marathoner, but I'm also a two-time (about to be three-time) trail ultramarathoner. The term "ultramarathoner" sounds far more cool than it is, but it's something I love to do. Running is the life challenge I get to choose for myself. I think it's great to have challenges you take on on your own terms...so that's mine.

3. I'm now the mother of a teenager and a 10-year-old...not only did I turn 40, but my older son turned 13 and my younger son jumped into the double digits, as well. Add those to the list of things I wasn't emotionally prepared for.

4. I've had my ups and downs this year with my anxiety/depression combo. Yeah, that's kind of sucked, I admit. But, through it all, God has shown me his faithfulness. Just when I think I can't go on and I'll never be "normal" again, He reminds me that I'm not alone. He shows me that by being open about my struggles, I not only help myself, but I help others, too. Sometimes you have to feel the feels and then let them pass. I have had some really low "valley" moments in recent days, but I'm thankful that my amazing family and friends and my awesome Father have encouraged my heart in so many ways. Life happens, but I continue to have hope. Plus, "normal" is overrated. So there's that.

Life has some crazy ebbs and flows. I plan to begin writing again and reacquainting myself with my blog voice. I know I have things in my heart that I want to express, so we'll see how they manifest themselves. Currently, photos are the way I express myself, so feel free to follow me on Instagram under @sarahfishcolligan. 

Thanks for reading my thoughts. It's quite possible I'll share more in the near future, so get ready!