This morning started with some unwelcome pain. I got up and out of bed to let the dog out in the waning hours of the night and neglected to put on a light, or to put my glasses on. That created a problem when I returned to bed in order to hit my own personal snooze button for a few more minutes of rest. Getting back into bed here in NJ, which right now consists of a Murphy-type construct padded by an air mattress, involves negotiating the box of the Murphy frame. Not having light, or sight, mattered a great deal in that moment...
I "missed missing" the edge of the frame, right where the metal hinge sits, with my knee. I hit it hard enough to leave a red line on top of the new, rising lump of a bruise on my knee cap. Of course, I couldn't holler out, as that would have spooked our already nervous dog with knee problems as she was standing nearby on a slick hardwood floor. I didn't want her to wind up with a more serious injury than mine. So, I just sort of stood there on one foot and hissed my breath in and out until the stars that weren't there in the room before I hit the hinge were starting to fade.
That was when my old soccer coach's advice came back to haunt me, "Walk it off."
So limping just a bit I threw on some sweats and a jacket, invited the dog into her harness and headed off into a crisp, cold morning for a walk on the path out behind the rectory.
As we walked, the sun came up to our left. Sophie was doing her best to linger at every node of scent that passing four-legged beings might have left behind on the edge of the path and I could see mist rising up from both of us with every exhale. "This is a good way to start the day," I caught myself praying. Of course, I wouldn't have consciously chosen a cracked knee as the motivating force to get up and get going...but I could at least limp out a profound thank you to God for a beautiful morning to begin a new day in grace and service.
After the walk, I showered, had breakfast and headed over to the church for morning prayer. This morning's first psalm was 42...."As the deer longs for the water brook, so longs my soul for you, O God/My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?"
As Western Christians, we forget that the one true thing of the call to discipleship is to submit ourselves to a life lived out in the mind and will of God. Our own egos, feelings, desires and ambitions get conflated with what we think God is wanting for us and for the Church. We supplement our own prejudices for a willingness to set it all down to follow Jesus. That desire to supplement God's will for us is a seductive stroll, really. Even this morning, I was struck by how beautiful the morning was from my own point of view...but in reality, there were many other perspectives that I wasn't paying attention to: the birds who are just now beginning to enjoy the availability of food after a long winter; my dog exulting in the smells and trails of wild and domestic life in her path; the rumble of early morning traffic, the way other people might be experiencing the morning.
I wasn't just waking off my own pain. I was being given a chance to put my own pain into perspective. Sure, I was limping, but there was a heck of a lot more going on in God's great world than my own moment of "ouch" and I could choose to be thirsty for that broader perspective...or just let it go and choose instead to wonder if I had enough ibuprofen at the house to make it through my day.
Submission isn't just being willing to drop our eyes into a passive and humble aspect, hoping that God might be pleased in our willingness to give up a moment of pride to attend to the divine. It is also about being willing to lift up our eyes to the hills (psalm 121)...and to acknowledge that real thirst (and God slaking it with the living waters that Jesus promises us and all who follow him), is realized in seeing beyond humility and into true unity. Submission is letting go of the ego that makes our own pain matter more than God loving us into health and into relationship with those around us in this life and in the next....