Walk with me . . . learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
I am a walker.
I used to resist that admission simply because I was a runner. In fact, I spent a full decade of my life pounding the pavement for three and half miles, four days a week. It was my pastime and my exercise option of choice. I enjoyed struggling through my breathless limit, finding a second gust of energy and somehow hitting that euphoric stride in the final mile. Then, I’d collapse onto my driveway feeling joyfully spent while endorphins pulsed in my body.
Then I turned forty-years old.
Since then, I’ve been a walker.
As if on cue, weeks into my fourth decade, my knees became alarmingly swollen and stiff. First the right one and shortly after, the left. They buckled under the weight of my body throughout the day and rushed with hot fluid and inflammation at night. I went from one doctor to the next – first to have them drained, then to have them diagnosed. I was nervous with certainty that the outlook was going to be grim. Devastating even. Given how uncomfortable and enduring the problem had become, I expected a chronic, incurable conclusion. But, when only slight signs of arthritis showed up on my scans, the doctor looked in my direction with a knowing smile and gave me a remedy . . .
“Walk”, she said.
I resisted at first. Slowing down felt like a demotion really. I’d worked so hard to run in the first place – starting in quarter-mile run/walk increments to build up to a solid distance. Somehow, the thought of slowing the pace and relegating myself to even a fast-paced walk felt like a downgrade in achievement. But when faced with the alternative – tender knees in my forties and permanently damaged knees in my fifties and sixties – I decided to obey the doctor’s orders.
That’s why . . .
I’m a walker.
I’ll never forget the first day I took up walking as my new official form of exercise. I turned the corner from my driveway and headed down the familiar, winding road. I found a comfortable yet aggressive gait and pumped my arms eagerly. It felt too slow. Too easy. Too lazy. Too peaceful to be considered achievement at first. I knew that this was going to take some getting used to.
But then, after an incline or two, something else happened.
My eyes and heart were opened in a way that the fast-paced, exhausted run had never allowed. The beauties of my surroundings opened up to me like a rosebud in the height of spring. The nuances of my environment took shape and appeared. Before, I’d been too breathless, too fast, too tired to notice or to even care about the traces of joy that were always right in front of me.
The birds nest there.
A smattering of ponies in a pasture here.
The fence bordered by pink cherry blossoms there.
The quaint, white house nearly hidden behind a thick tuft of trees over there.
The older couple walking hand in hand.
The smile on her face as she gazes into his.
The hidden treasures along the path jumped out at me as if I’d never ventured down this road before. And then, my mouth joined my eyes, opening in gratitude to God. I thanked Him for the sunlight warming my cheeks, the birds’ song in my ears, the smell of honeysuckle under my nose.
I spoke. He listened.
He spoke. I listened.
Slowing down showed me that it’s hard to catch sight of God when you can’t even catch your breath. A painful problem, a doctor’s order and a mandated deceleration was the only way.
Something in your life off-kilter? Inflamed? Throbbing? Painful even?
Hear your Great Physician whisper, “Slow down and walk.”
Yes, Beloved. Walk with me.
God’s gait will feel uncomfortable at first. Too easy. Lazy even. Given His affinity for rest and Sabbath and peace, you’ll be tempted to turn your nose up at the pace that He prescribes for you to keep. You are used to being breathless and productive – sweat on your brow, pounding heat in your lungs, racing to the finish line of every day.
But this pace is causing an arthritis in your home, tension in your work, a pain in your relationships that will never be resolved until you . . . slow down. There is so much your Father wants you to see and enjoy. There are rich conversations with Him that He wants you to have and beautiful bits of His creation that He wants you to appreciate.
So, slow down and grab hold of it all.