I love this comic. Growing up I collected almost all the books, and I rationed them out to my siblings carefully so as not to lose track of them. Here I offer you a strip:
Anyone who has ever ready the comic is familiar with the Calvin’s father’s dry conveyance of the phrase “It builds character.”
When I was a kid, I didn’t quite understand or appreciate the meaning of the word ‘character.’ All I knew was my dad made me work hard, too, but I griped and complained far less than Calvin, if ever. My dad never allowed us the indulgence of whining in his presence, and we couldn’t exactly hold it against him because he was always working just as hard and harder.
When it comes to things like work, whether it’s weeding, washing dishes, taking an order from a rude customer, taking out the bulging garbage that no one else notices, stacking mounds of firewood, whatever, I’m good. I never developed the habit of having a bad attitude, so it’s not my first reaction to fall back on.
All this to say, sure, I’ve developed some character over the years that a good portion of the population lacks.
I went running today. I usually skip out on running when it rains, but today I finally realized it always rains on the Oregon coast, so I might as well buck up and go at it.
The left side of my body is smaller than the other. When I tell people this, they almost always casually dismiss the information by saying everyone’s bodies are like that, it’s a common fact, and that their own feet are half a size different from each other, and that it’s normal for your dominant side to be stronger. I usually just nod, and refrain from pleading my case any further. Growing up I often strove to keep up with other kids as I hopped through a pile of fire wood, walked across a log, standing on one leg. I still remember the remark my cousin made concerning my poor balance when I was struggling with a playground structure with a moving base.
Running tonight, I could feel my gait’s lopsidedness. I had a very difficult time of making smooth strokes with my legs, and it seemed every step was a struggle. Half way through my route, I noticed my right shin and calf had grown tight and hard, the muscles on that side having to make up for the lack of height and strength on the left side. The right side of my back was, and is, cramped for the same reason from lifting dishes at work. I could feel my right leg working it’s share and more, compensating for it’s smaller half. Muscle cramps have been a constant companion all my life. My left side cramps because it’s weak and unused to hard work, and my right side cramps because it has to do more work than it was designed for. Often times they cramp at the same time. It’s like a terrible tug of war with my body. I remember a time when I was 5, and I had curled up in a fetal position on the kitchen rug, sobbing, while my mother got asprin because my legs were burning.
It sucked. As I felt my body warring with itself, not reaching it’s full potential, I had enough of it.
And that’s it. I realized today, while running in the wind and rain, that I had a choice. I could ditch all of it and stop. It would be easy. I could just not continue in anything I found physically demanding, and I would have a perfectly good reason to do so. And everyone would understand, for the most part. I had an excuse.
I found this post on the blog, Commit to be Fit:
“Adversity can play a big role in teaching a person to appreciate the things they have in life. I mean, how can you take pride in your accomplishments if you never struggled to achieve anything… (On biking to work) It wasn’t anything I’d call pleasant. I had a 20 mph head wind blowing into my face for my entire ride out to Good Thunder the other day, plus I had to deal with my fair share of horizontal rain while biking up the River Hills Mall area later in the week. I won’t lie: I probably directed an obscenity or two toward Mother Nature when the biking got tough.
But I made it to where I needed to go. And because I had to endure the elements to get there, I had a much deeper appreciation for the destination than I would have had I simply driven there in a car.”
And in the pouring rain, while me body cried out, the Holy Spirit started working a change in my heart.
There’s a lot you can be a good sport about on the outside. I have character, yes, but there’s a place in the heart that God pays special attention to. You can put on a good face, but bitterness or ungratefulness has a way of seeping in, of taking root, and God always know when and where to find it. And then, to Him, the outside ceases to matter.
I realized my frustration and excuses were only holding me back from what I could be. I know that I can be a runner, and reaching that goal would be at last twice as satisfying as it would be to someone with a body that functioned perfectly. Like the widow who only gave a mite, but she gave of everything she had. And you know what? That was enough for the God I serve. He doesn’t care if I can run a marathon, only as long as I give what I know is my best. The day that I put limitation on what I can do, is the day where I stop being an effective example of Christ.
I began to ask myself, would you rather have no legs at all? No. Well, I guess there’s nothing to complain about. hrmp. Well.
And I knew that voice was right. I remembered that I could walk, that I could run, and that my left side didn’t stay paralysed in that hospital bed all those years ago. I remembered that my life was a gift. Not something I deserved, but something that was given to me in stewardship, and God was letting me do with it as I pleased. It’s very much up to me to decide what I could and could not do. The eyes of the world are watching me, and I don’t want to sell the faithfulness of my God short.
So I kept running, despite the pain. And I will keep running.
Because I can.