'Cloud's Rest' Yosemite
Fr. Dale Matson
“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3, KJV)
As I age, I have increasingly less confidence in a body that once was the source of confidence that rose to the level of pride. At one time I would run solo on the Sierra Mountain trails with only a single bottle fanny pack, some energy gel packs and a few water purification tablets for water resupply. Now the pace is slower and I include a satellite phone, GPS and hooded waterproof shell. Micah True, the famous ultra-runner, was found dead in May of this year. Ten years my junior, he had no backup plan and told no one where he would be. This is not uncommon in the ultra-running community.
The body I could always depend on has become less dependable the last two years and recovering from two surgeries has been more circular than linear. Even going down the stairs, I now use the hand rails. I have had to forego bread, carbonated beverages, dairy products and adjusted my diet to include much more hemi iron to combat anemia. Gastric reflux means the Tums are always at hand. BPH means less coffee and more bathrooms.
Travel is more difficult because the routine, rituals and rhythm of home life are interrupted. Things are not where you want them or not there when you need them. The numerous eyeglasses with different power used for reading and the computer are reduced to one pair on a lanyard around the neck. Adequate hearing now requires a hearing aid. I pull through and park in a space that I can drive forward out of rather than backing out.
As I see photographs of myself or even my own shadow as I run, I see an older bent over man and he is me. Where there is no confidence in self, there is no pride either. When Jesus talked about binding the ‘strong man’ it is generally thought of as Jesus binding Satan on this earth and stealing his human slaves, there is another layer that is worth consideration.
This can also refer to the stubborn, stiff necked proud individuals with many attributes and skills. These kinds of people do not know God and do not feel a need to seek God because they are self-reliant. In a sense, they are their own gods. Here God breaks into their life, ties them up and steals their goods. What are their goods? Their goods are things like Pride, Selfishness, Self-Reliance, and Arrogance. Do you know people like this? I tend in that direction…..less so now.
This can also be true of the Christian. There is a kind of self-idolatry in self-confidence. There is a kind of prideful selfhood. As St. Paul noted, “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Lord, bind the strong man in me that my soul may be preserved.