Since I have already dedicated a good number of my life’s embarrassing moments here for the world to read, I thought I might as well share one more. They seem to be entertaining, and maybe somebody somewhere can glean something of spiritual significance from the humilities my Savior allows me to go through. This one has to do with pride.
When I was a high school student, I was always looking for legitimate ways to get out of class. I joined the French Club, FFA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Chess Club, and etc. Another upshot of this is that my picture is in my Senior annual about twenty times. I look like I have real school spirit. Who would know that I was really a slacker in disguise?
One of the ingenious things that I did to avoid class was to join the track team. (I also needed to do this to get in the FCA.) Since I was too skinny for football, too short for basketball, and too clumsy for baseball, my only hope was track. I was neither fast, nor could I jump far, nor could I throw a shot-put or discus. My only hope was long distance running. I cannot believe the lengths that I would go to in order to miss class.
So, I ran the 800 meter ‘dash’ and the mile and the mile relay. It hurt. Bad. But I did it anyway. I was mediocre at best. I never placed in the top three in the history of my career. Usually, I finished a respectable “middle of the pack.”
The only time anyone even cared about track was at the County tournament. At that meet, we would actually have people show up. Not a great crowd, but enough to notice that people were there. This year, we had a slightly larger crowd than usual. Our biggest rival, Boaz, had a guy on there team who was actually a machine. He was inhuman, really. Guess what his best event was? The mile run. This guy was going for the county record this year. It had stood for approximately twenty years. He had to run the mile in under 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Folks, that is trucking. This guy had run under that in practice, but never at an official meet.
My time for the mile run was around 5 minutes and forty five seconds, on average. Once, I actually ran a 5 minute 15 second mile. Not too shabby. The problem with this time is that it left me in real danger of being lapped. Lapped in a mile run! That’s a humiliating thing to have to endure, especially if your humility comes at the hands of your biggest rival.
Another terrible thing about this guy was that he was cool. He ran in Oakley’s, and he never lost. I was a skinny, white-legged nerd. He was a bronze, Oakley wearing champion. How I envied and despised him.
At the starting line, I was filled with dread. Chiefly, I dreaded the intense pain that I was about to go through. The horror of Algebra class helped to deaden this pain. I would rather be beaten with a stick than go to Algebra. Also, I was seriously afraid that Mr. Perfect was going to lap me in front of everyone. I couldn’t let that happen.
At the sound of the gun, we all took off like a shot, especially Mr. Oakley. You’d have to see the guy run to appreciate it. He ran like a deer. He was graceful, fluid, fast, and tireless. He left us all in the dust.
For a while, I lost track of my rival. I was concentrating on running and sucking wind. The intense pain that running causes made me actually forget the guy altogether, that is until the last leg of the third lap.
I was used to be passed up. I have already admitted that I am not much of an athlete. So when I heard footsteps pounding behind me, I thought little of it. I scooted over to let the guy pass. I was competitive but courteous. As he whizzed by me, I saw that it was Mr. Oakley.
I was shocked and dismayed. The dude really was going to lap me…over my dead body! I gritted my teeth and ran. I ran so hard that I thought my lungs would explode. I couldn’t hear, and I couldn’t see. The only thing I was aware of was the pounding of Mr. Oakley’s feet to my right. He was hurting, I could tell. I could also tell that he was flagging and falling behind me.
On the back stretch of lap three, I toasted Mr. Oakley. He was worn out and couldn’t keep up. I felt elated as I crossed the finish line; he hadn’t lapped me.
That’s when I noticed the crowd. The entire crowd was up on its feet cheering like mad. My hometown’s section was in, what seemed to me, a frenzy. It looked like that we had just scored a touchdown in football. I was confused. Then I realized what had happened. They thought I had beaten him.
You see, many of the people who had come that day had come to see Mr. Oakley set the record. But it’s hard to pay close attention to a long foot race; they are boring. All they noticed was that when Superman came down the backstretch he had some competition, and they could further see that both guys were running to “win.” They saw the Champ drop back and finish behind. It was the upset of the century.
I was mortified. The crowd would certainly learn the truth in a couple moments. I thought, “I’ll pretend it’s a victory lap! I’ll just wave to the people as I jog around my last lap. That’ll fool them.” But I couldn’t. I was too tired and humiliated to lift my hands. The cheers died. They were replaced by confusion. Then people started figuring out what had happened. I went from nerd to hero and back to nerd again in about 45 seconds.
As I gasped across the finish line in the back of the pack, one last, horrible thought went through my oxygen deprived brain: This is worse than doing Algebra.
There is one happy thing about this entire tale of my humiliation. Mr. Perfect missed the county record by eight seconds. Ha!
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.