My God has a sense of humor.
I know this because whenever I have a problem, the solution He gives me is usually the very last thing I would ever come up with, let alone ask for.
I was reminded of this just the other day. Well actually over the course of a couple of days.
It came in the form of unsolicited story assignments.
But first let me back up and explain a problem I was wrestling with. Well, a couple of problems. Small ones, really. Very small in the scheme of things.
First, I had put on a few pounds. Nothing drastic, but enough that I couldn’t wear half my clothes. I made a few half-hearted attempts at watching what I eat more closely. But if I’m honest, I really didn’t do much about it besides wish they would melt away without any effort on my part.
Secondly, I noticed that I’ve been feeling a little off lately. Not depressed, really. Just a little flat. When I thought about when it started, I realized it was about the time we lost our dog. It didn’t really concern me. I knew that if I kept doing the things I had been taught to do in this program, it would pass.
Then I started getting these assignments. They’d appear in my inbox with the subject line that went something like “another assignment?”
Now, in a recession in which the health of print journalism, and the fortunes of journalists, hung by a thread, these little surprises are like manna from heaven.
Only this was like manna with strings.
The first involved a profile.
Of someone who lived in the Grand Canyon.
Accessible only by mule, helicopter or foot.
I was pretty sure the magazine wasn’t going to pay for the helicopter. Or the mules. I might take the mules anyway because my husband, who usually accompanies me on my travels, is in no condition to hike the Grand Canyon.
I wasn’t sure my pride would allow me to take the mules. The editor of this particular magazine is an old hiking buddy. But I took the assignment. I figured I’d figure it out.
Then the next day I got another offer. This time for a three-day backpacking class. In the Grand Canyon. In August.
I stared for a long time at the e-mail. My options here didn’t involve helicopters or mules, or my husband for that matter. I had been on exactly one backpacking trip and considered myself cured. I had no desire to do it again. That was 10 years ago. On flatter ground. And not in August.
This assignment sounded hard. And hot. Very, very hot.
I stared at the e-mail wondering what excuses I could possibly concoct. Did I really want to turn down unsolicited work in this economy? Really?
Yes. I did.
I could imagine hiking the 10 miles in and out from the cooler north rim to where my profile subject lived. But three days of backpacking from the hotter south rim? To the desert bottom and back?
I admit I felt like a wuss. I don’t know how many of my friends have done rim to rim hikes. But the idea has just never appealed to me. And I hadn’t really been hiking since I hurt my knee a year and a half ago.
At first, it made good sense. Every time I went hiking, my knee hurt again. But honestly? After a while it was pure laziness.
I still exercise every day. But in my air-conditioned home, and not too hard.
I hit the “reply” key. I started to type my regrets.
Then the phone rang.
“What are you doing?” my husband’s voice asked.
“I’m trying to decide how to answer the latest assignment offer,” I said. I told him what it was.
“Well, I can’t do that,” he said. “But I’d support you doing it.”
I deleted the message.
I knew it was God. I looked up and told Him that I appreciated the thought, but I was hoping for a softer, easier way.
I looked at the details of the class. It looked doable. I downloaded an equipment list and started to see what I had and what I would need to rent or borrow.
Then I pulled out my hiking boots and packed what I had assembled in a backpack, adding weights to make up for what I was still missing.
I turned the thermostat to 88, put on my boots and pulled on the pack. I got on the elliptical trainer and turned up both the resistance and the incline and exercised harder than I had for a long time.
I swear I could hear God chuckling.
And when I got done, I felt… good.
Really good. My face was red and I was dripping sweat, but my lungs felt clean. I felt energized. The way I always used to feel after a good hike.
This wouldn’t be so bad. After all, we’re talking about one of the seven natural wonders of the world! People pay good money to take the class I’ve been offered! I was getting to take it for free! And people would pay me!
Then there was the whole diet thing. I could eat all sorts of salty, carby things that were usually off my list. The course recommendations included bagels. When was the last time I had one of those?
What was the matter with me? Where was the gratitude?
I took the assignment. Then got down on my knees to thank God for knowing what I needed and giving it to me. Whether I liked it or not.
He's still laughing. I just know it.
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