Monday, November 2, 2009

Eyes on the Shepherd

I am not very athletic. I am however, competitive.

One Sunday last spring Allie and I made our way to her Certificate of Merit music test on San Diego State's campus. Not sure of our actual destination, we followed printed directions through a maze of parking complexes. The sight of other parent/child groupings with black music cases assured us we were on the right track.

We parked feeling like tourists in a small town who'd found the locals' only breakfast haunt. It may as well have been Chinatown as we joined the throng, who appeared to know where they were going. It was then that my quiet, prophetic little Allie, uttered another of her truths and birthed the now familial phrase, "Mom, we're "keepin' up with the Asians!"

We guffawed as we realized the truth of it and the multiple meanings. She attends an academically rigorous high school which is ethnically diverse. Their class trip is to China which heightens our awareness and discussions of shifts in world power.

The reality resonates as flute is her primary extracurricular pursuit. Every Saturday in order to participate in both Youth Symphony and a chamber quartet, we must hightail it across town in 15 minutes flat. We aren't the only ones. A classmate of Allie's and her sweet dad, Yubo, do the same.

He is genuinely kind, having offered to carpool, get lunch or anything to be helpful. I don't think he is competitive but as mentioned, I am. I also crave efficiency. (I have a crush on the motion engineer, father of 12, Frank Gilbreth, from Cheaper by the Dozen, the book). And I'm motivated by challenge. Tell me I can't do something and I surely will.

So a tight transition like this thrills me all the more because it coincides with meal time and requires navigational prowess. There lies a freeway between the symphony rehearsal space and the quartet location. First time I drove it, without googlemaps or a GPS, I got all turned around trying to find a surface street that crossed over the 805. We were several minutes late owing to my lack of preparation.

The next week, after discussion with Yubo, I played it safe and took a straight shot to University Avenue then a right on 36th which dead ends into this woman's rental studio. We were on time. What befuddled me is how Yubo is always there before me parked on the shady side of the street, practically with his feet up on the dash, smokin' a stogie, while I am breaking out in a full sweat secretly racing to keep up with him.

This past Saturday, with a tuna sandwich and Snapple to go, I got the Eurovan and pulled into the loading zone a leisurely 15 minutes ahead of dismissal time, and waited. I was relaxed, surveyed a used book sale on the lawn, and got back behind the wheel way before Allie emerged. On her heels, I recognized Yubo and his daughter. We waved a friendly hello. And within seconds, it struck me. He was on foot.

We could beat him today! He wasn't even in a vehicle. He'd neglected the advice he'd given me about pulling into the loading area in advance then circling out of the unloading fray. He was trekking across the great lawn, through full lots at the Museum of Natural History and beyond to some distant parking spot.

"Allie, get in quick! Keeping up with the Asians! Let's go, look alive, hustle, girlfriend."

"Ok. I'm in. Go ahead, GO, mom, go."

"Yubo, IT is on!"

We smoothly but swiftly made the 360 and were out on the open road headed into thru traffic. Allie had them in sight, still walking. Maybe he forgot where he'd parked? (doubtful) My adrenaline was pumping; we had to be a full 5 minutes ahead of him.

This was the day! I smugly cruised through the green lights, rights on red, mindful of not gunning it or otherwise setting a bad example for my near-driving-age daughter. Simultaneously, I was aware of modeling for her that assertiveness and ambition are every bit as much her claim as anyone's and that being first was within reach! We can do this thing. You can do anything you set your mind to...(check that theology before you repeat it)

I confidently turned the last corner preparing to park in front of Dr. K's studio and greet the rest of the quartet when they arrived. What to my wondering eyes did appear...YUBO!

Parked. In the shady spot. Cool, calm, collected. Talk about smug?!* How did he do that?!?

Impossible! The man has a short cut he's not sharing, or batwings on the Highlander, or something. I'm sure he didn't pass me. Allie and I had a good laugh as I feigned the disdain of a poor loser. She suggested it was blog material because of its hilarity. Yeah, but it's a little off topic, I thought. Until the spiritual significance and a pattern dawned on me this morning.

My 25 year old niece, who we all love, has moved in with us and is athletic (but not competitive). She is a team player par excellence and maximizer of others. So it is, that I am getting what I consider an extreme amount of exercise by virtue of spending quality time with her. Today we headed for our ocean front exercise loop which includes 8 flights of stairs. She runs. I walk.

Walking by myself has its benefits. I can sort through my thoughts rather than chatter and usually end up hearing something from the Lord especially when in eyeshot of His glorious ocean. The majesty of its expanse gives me pause and triggers a rush of verses and songs. Since I was alone, I could softly sing the Hallelujah... refrain that the Spirit brought to mind...your love makes me sing...your love is amazing...

Timing it so we'd end up at the car around the same time, I cut into the stairs a couple flights short of the entire loop. Descending, I caught myself scoping where Kathryn was from the top of each flight not just to synchronize, but to see if she was gaining on me!

I was not doing too bad for a 45 year old, non-athlete. Wait! What's wrong with me. You don't have to be first at everything. Then the tie-in came to me. A lesson from years back that I obviously haven't fully internalized. Am I so busy watching the other sheep that I've taken my eyes off the Shepherd?

Sadly, even within the disability world, there is competition and comparison that deters us from seeing who Jesus is and what God has just for us. We compare skills, deficits, levels of functioning, meds, therapies, and effectiveness. We compare siblings, expectations, and outcomes. To a degree this is discernment but much of it is distracting and even idolatrous.

I am going back to re-read Phillip Keller's classic, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.

"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Isaiah 40:24-26

Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,
Galatians 6:3-5

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning
, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. Exodus 17:10-12

I press on toward the goal to win
the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-15

Am I now trying to win
the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:9-11


  1. I love Galatians 1:9-11. Heck, I love Galatians. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about my competitive spirit, my need for recognition and need to be right. Can't say I've grown much. Just realize more quickly my need of my Savior.

  2. exactly Corrie, glad i'm not alone, thanks for commenting:)

  3. so i'm dying to know what Yubo's secret is!

    the competitive thing is something i constantly struggle with - i remember being married for a couple weeks and feeling the need to compete with my husband. then God showed me myself and i was grieved at what i saw. and then the autism came along and the competition got turned on its head. i feel the need to examine my motivations often, and remember that "i live and i breathe for an audience of one." (there's a sara groves line for you!)

  4. Great post. So funny! But I get it on a lot of levels. One being that my 13 yr. old DD plays violin in our city's youth orchestra. It can be a very competative environment. We have our (sorta)friendly competitors too. The DD feels like a winner as long as she just sits IN FRONT of a certain kid. She doesn't always make it and it KILLS her....and mom too. lol. The things we fret over.

    About passed out when you mentioned Phillip Keller's "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23". It is my favorite Christian book of all time. You had me when you said we are so busy watching the other sheep that we've lost site of Him. Then you mentioned Keller's book. God is talking to me. I need to get my eyes back on Him and remember that audience of one.

    I have a competative streak too. It's made me have very high expectations for myself. Very frustrating since I have a lot of limitations. Always comparing myself to NT's and coming up short. Healthy competition is a very good thing. Brings out the best in us. But sometimes the trying to keep up makes me SO tired. I know I need to stop in my tracks right this minute, turn back to Him and just let Him carry me between His shoulders.

  5. great post. there is a screen play in here somewhere.