It was the one visual that moved me in the days after Labor Day, that days that kind of feel the relief of a second New Years, reset days, and, I guess, I was literally moved just because of the way she moved.
All summer long, she’d been the wisp of a girl who wrangled and wrestled and wistfully begged me if she could come with me too. Come bike the rocky, steep trail with me, straight through the corn fields, then back along the fringe of the field, only to wind the wild, serpentine path, snaking through the woods, then turn on to the gravel lane through the leafy maple limbs, toward the beckoning farm pond, and its neighbouring, meandering river — nearly a full mile away.
But her legs are short.
And the way’s hard, the rocks large, the potholes deep. And she literally has half a heart. She has this raised scar down the full length of her chest that bears witness to how hard her heart works to just keep beating through every ordinary day, every single minute.
And, to be honest, I find myself, without any heart scars or drumming with only one artery, ending up a bit out of breath, winded, every time I just bike cross-country, cross-hills, cross-woods, cross everything to the river farm, traversing there and back, almost 2 miles round trip.
Girl’s no fool. Last week, she asks if I would just bike with her around the laneway that laps around the barn. But when we get to the far end of the loop that curves around the barn, she looks longingly down the lane that strikes off between the cornfields.
“Can we — can I pleaaaseee — just try?”
“But, Hon” — I point, “See those hills? See how steep they are? How deep the valleys are? And you have to go straight up, and then straight down and not wipe out?”
I’m just trying to protect her from danger and failure.
“I know, I know, but Mama, when I can’t bike, Mama? You know what I can do? I can just walk!” And she grins this huge toothy smile.
She’s just trying to protect me from living small and a sad-safe.
“Okaayyy… “ I smile weakly. “We can try just a bit of the trail — and see?” I brace myself half way up the loose gravel of the first ascent: Cue the fear and whining and distress, right about — now.
“In a world of whirl & wheels, never doubt that walking works.”
And when I look over my shoulder, there she is, in all her grinning glory, hands gripping handlebars — walking.
“See, Mama?” She’s crooning! Laughing!
“If you can’t ride? Just walk! Just walking works!”
My mind snapshots the scene as a poster for some noodled wall in my cerebellum:
In a world of whirl & wheels, never doubt that walking works.
The point of life is not to race through life to cram in the most amount of life, the point of life is to enjoy our Maker and the miracle of life.
And because that’s the point of being alive?
Just walking works.
Because the point is: You may get only about 4,000 Wednesdays in the course of your life. Why think you have to fly, ride, race through the only 4,000 Wednesdays you get?
Maybe the point is: You don’t have to race, you can— just walk. And if you can’t just walk, you can just take the next step, and if you can’t take the next step, you can just crawl, and if you can’t crawl, you can just take the next inch.
You don’t have to do it the way everyone else is doing it, to still get to do it.
“The point of life is not to race through life to cram in the most amount of life, the point of life is to enjoy our Maker and the miracle of life.”
Why in the world did I think that the only way through was the conventional way, the hustling way, the racing, fast, hurry-blurry way? Conventional wisdom may say we’re supposed be flying up and down the hills, driven by our fear of missing out, trying somehow to outrun time, so we can steal more time, but there is a far deeper, sacred wisdom that says walking may be the way to not miss out on actually living your life.
Forget whatever is conventional, but never forget what it means to be intentional.
The conventional way of life may be to race hard to beat time, but that only ends with your life being beat down hard by time.
The intentional way of life knows that we just need to consistently be consistent: Just one step in front of the other will move you to another place, make you another person, give you another kind of view.
One step in front of the other is all you need for another kind of life.
The kind of life that trusts walking works, because life isn’t about your pace, but about making space for sacred awe, very God, in your life.
“The only wise way to spend your life is by paying attention.”
To be exceptional, is to be intentional. I keep thinking that as I watch her walking down one hill, and up the next, nary a worry that she’s not riding her bike: To be exceptional is simply to be intentional.
You don’t need speed to take the inclines, you just need to be inclined to intentionally put one step in front of the other and live at the speed of awe. The speed of God. At the speed of meaningfulness.
The focus of life isn’t on the speed of travel, but the trajectory of travel. The trajectory of doing all things with deep intentionality, knowing relationship is the only real reality.
The only wise way to spend your life is by paying attention.
And when you’re spending your life paying attention, what matters is your pace. You don’t have to always hustle. You don’t have to always ride or fly or hurry. Just walking works. Maybe even best.
She can’t stop smiling over at me.
“See, Mama? I can just walk when I need to, because just walking works…” then she throws her leg over to straddle her bike, slipping back onto her seat, “and then I can ride, just whenever that works!”
“You don’t have to always hustle. You don’t have to always ride or fly or hurry. Just walking works. Maybe even best.”
And her smile’s making me smile. There is a time for everything under the sun, a time to walk and a time to ride or run, and for nearly a full mile, through fields and woods, uphill and down, potholes and stones and tree roots, winding and snaking and forging on, she rides when it works, and she just walks whenever she needs to, because walking always works.
She makes it. I’m in stunned awe.
She has half a heart — but she lives wholeheartedly.
She makes it and doesn’t give up.
You never give up because God always gives Himself.
She makes it all the way there, not once, in any way, griping or whining or complaining on the way, but instead she just keeps finding a way.
There is no need to gripe when you have grit. When you feel gratitude for the miracle of getting today, even with all of its valleys and hills. None of this might have been. Everything is miracle.
When we are under the shade of the maple leafy limbs on our 2 mile round-trip, cross-country, through woods, trek back to the farm, just as she turns the bend where the creek curls, a gust of wind catches her hair and she laughs and hollers it at the top of her lungs:
“It’s a good day to be aliiiiivvvvveeee!”
And I laugh and loudly echo her — and I’m deeply moved.
And that’s how we move the whole way home, riding when it works, and when riding doesn’t work — just walk. Just walk.
One intentional, miraculous step in front of the other.