Yeah, the Russian male figure skater.

He’s a 31 year old European Champion, World Champion, and four-time Olympic medalist–which means he’s been the Olympic favorite for almost half of my life.  I’ve been watching him skate on Olympic ice in my TV since I was sixteen years old.  And I couldn’t stand him.  Something about his *ahem* interesting haircut, or his smug smile, or his confident air, something just never sat right with me.

This year in particular he seemed to really get under my skin.  The golden boy has come home to Sochi to win it for Mother Russia!  They might as well have just saved everyone the trouble and given him the medal without making anyone skate.  After all, he clinched the gold for Russia in the team competition, earning a hug from Putin himself.

So, in my annoyance, I said some ugly things about him.  Things that, I’m ashamed to say, I can’t bring myself to repeat here.  Sarcastic texts to friends, snarky comments in casual conversations.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t even care that much about skating.  It’s not like I’m a superfan.  I couldn’t even have told you the names of the men skating for Team USA before last week.  And I didn’t tweet, or otherwise publicly share, my mean thoughts and comments with the public.  I wasn’t out for blood or defamation or anything.  It was just your everyday, “I don’t like him” ugliness.

Then I settled into my couch a week ago to watch the men’s figure skating competition.  They were showing the warm-ups, Yevgeny’s familiar blonde bangs flying in the breeze as he skated around the rink and…almost fell?  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I watched in disbelief as he skated over to the judges’ table to inform them that he would not be competing.  He had hurt his back and could not execute his jumps.

This will be his final Olympic appearance (he announced his official retirement shortly thereafter).  And it’s on his home turf, no less.  But for the first time in the twelve years that he’s been skating on my TV screen, he walked off the Olympic ice with no chance of a medal.  Instead of ending a long and dominant career with a final solo performance in front of a loving home crowd, he exits the arena having withdrawn from competition, head down, face wincing in pain of both body and heart.

Even as he angrily jerked away from the consoling touch of his coach and rudely ignored the word and gaze of the reporters desperate for a comment, my heart hurt a little for him.

A few minutes later, they showed the interview that he did finally grant that reporter.

He was calm and gracious and as eloquent as he could be speaking in a non-native language.  He talked about the physical pain he was in and how it was not possible for him to compete.  He seemed heartbroken, of course, saying that he almost cried while walking off the ice.  He said he felt sad for his fans.  He said over and over that “he tried…to the end.”  Then, in broken English he said, “I am not robot.  I am person.  Like you.”

And I burst into tears.

Suddenly I was so ashamed of the ugly things I had said about him, about this person.  This person I don’t even know.

I read a few articles that blasted him for not withdrawing sooner so that a fellow countryman could take his place.  Maybe they’re right.  I’ve also heard that he’s not “ruling out” the 2018 Olympics–perhaps another hint at arrogance.  The thing is, maybe in all reality Mr. Plushenko is not a very nice guy.  Maybe he actually is as rude and conceited as I once so boldly asserted.  I’ll never know, I suppose.  But it doesn’t matter.

After watching more than a decade of award-winning performances and remaining unaffected, the performance that finally got to me was the one that never was.  After years of watching him receive his medals, triumphant, I only ever admired him when gracious in heartache.

So, much to my surprise, Yevgeny made me cry.  And he reminded me of a few valuable life lessons:

Humility in defeat and graciousness in disappointment are much more powerful than pride in triumph.

Sometimes our judgments of people are wrong.  Sometimes they’re right.  But they always say more about ourselves than about the judged.

And, finally, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Dear Theodore,

The last time I wrote here, I wasn’t even pregnant yet.  As the saying goes, you weren’t even a twinkle in your Daddy’s eye.  And now you’re five months old.

It’s been the adventure of a lifetime these last five months.  Being home with you.  Being Momma.

You’re not the best napper during the day.  Writing about it here in this stark white and black, just words on a screen, makes it sound so trivial, so ridiculously small and unimportant.  Who cares that you fight your naps?  When people are dying of horrible diseases, and children all over the world go hungry, and wars are raging.  But here in the house with just you and me, day in and day out, it can feel overwhelming.  Caring for a baby is sometimes hard work, and it can feel exhausting, meaningless.

But today, standing here in your nursery, swaying and rocking and shushing and humming, arm numb from holding your not-so-tiny-anymore body, ear aching from your overly-tired cries, as you finally succumb to sleep and your sniffles stop and your breathing slows, as your head is cradled in my neck and your chubby hand holds my thumb, I’m struck by the honor of it.

The honor of being the one you need to hold you when you’re so tired that sleep won’t come.

Because on days like today, God grants me the perspective to remember that I’m raising you to be a man who some day will no longer need me.  A man who might one day have a wife and baby of his own to love.  A man who might travel the world in Jesus’ name and cradle exhausted orphans in his arms until they fall asleep.  A man who might write books or play beautiful music that touches hearts.  A man who (I pray) will carry the love of his Momma and his Daddy and his Lord with him out into the world.

And just like that, He reminds me that it’s overwhelming and exhausting because it’s hard work, but it is most certainly not meaningless, being Momma.

 

Love,

Your Momma

birthdaysnuggles

Sometimes, but just for a moment, I feel so happy, so gleeful, so joyous, that it seems as though something has stolen my breath and stopped my heart.

It’s such an incredible feeling that even those descriptions seem pale and tasteless in their attempt to convey it.

It lasts for a second or two, and I long for that second or two to never end.  Sometimes these moments occur at an appropriate time, like the first time my niece said my name and ran to me genuinely excited to see me, or one time when my husband and I were discussing our plans for the future.

I’ve written before about my propensity for tears and how they are a result of overwhelming emotion.  At times, I wish I were not so sensitive. Most times, though, I am so grateful that God allows me to feel things so strongly. It makes a way for me to be intensely thankful for my life in this world, for my life in Christ, for the simultaneous simplicity and incomprehensible magnitude of it all.

C.S. Lewis wrote about an experience he had as a child looking into a “biscuit tin filled with moss” and experiencing a fleeting moment of pure joy.  In my interpretation, it was like seeing a glimpse of the eternal, a flicker of transcendent beauty in an ordinary thing.

I think he nailed it.

So.  Some of my biscuit tins filled with moss:

Sunshine and summertime, warmth and long days.

Good films.

Good food.

Family.

Small, genuine acts of kindness.

Sports. (‘Sports?’ you say. Yes. I love them.) Football during football season, basketball during basketball season, and baseball during baseball season.

Singing.  Music:  melodies, harmonies, composition.

Community. People. Company and conversation.

Thank you, Lord, for these glimpses, these moments, these finite things that you empower to, for just a moment, open a window in my soul.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers