Lent’s Compass. Day Two: A Running Man

“When spring-fed Dog Pond warms up enough for swimming . . . I often go there in the late afternoon. Sometimes I will sit on a sun-warmed rock to dry, and think of Peter walking across the water to meet Jesus. As long as he didn’t remember that we human beings have forgotten how to walk on water, he was able to do it. . . . One of the great sorrows which came to human beings when Adam and Eve left the Garden was the loss of memory, memory of all that God’s children are meant to be. Perhaps one day I will remember to walk across Dog Pond.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Tuesday afternoon while walking to Sweets’ school at the end of the day, I realized I was without my cell phone. I returned home and retrieved it. Checking the clock as I headed out the door I grasped that I had three minutes to complete a six minute walk. I picked up the pace. Walking briskly, a odd thing happened. This was not something unusual in the way seeing a blind man ride a bike is. This was strange for me. It was wonderful too. As I walked, I found myself increasing speed without consciously trying to. I was merely trying to walk quickly. Suddenly I broke into a trot. I was running.

I looked down at my feet and watched them. I began to cry and worried that I might trip. I was looking at the ground, not where I was going. My eyes were full of water. Everything was a blur. I stopped, looked up and wiped the tears from my eyes. I was half a block from the school. I walked the rest of the way.

Arriving, I hip-checked one of my favorite mom’s, punched a dad in the arm, fist-bumped another and high-fived a precocious third-grader. He, I’m sure was just happy to make it through the end of a school day. In my mind I was replaying the scene in the film Rocky where Rocky triumphantly stands on the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art. This was my first experience of running freely in almost two years.

Running is something I forgot how to do after my stroke. I understood the mechanics of it. I knew the way my body needed to move. I just didn’t know how to get it to move the way it needed to. I became aware of this during a neighborhood kickball game a few months after leaving the hospital. Today I look back and wonder what I was doing playing kickball. At the time, I only knew what I knew. I was only able to live in the present moment. I had no yesterday. No tomorrow. No next. Blissfully, I had no anxiety either. I was wherever I was, in the way I was. So, I joined in.

During my first “at-bat” I kicked the ball as best I could and started to run. My run turned into the long stride of one leg. The other lagged behind. I lumbered toward first base. This was a game of “Parent’s versus Kids.” The kids were all in elementary school. I was out. They were delighted.

With practice, my performance improved. And yet, as late as this last Christmas, I’ve been aware that when I try to cross a major intersection on foot, my torso arrives before my legs do. They can’t keep up the pace. At least, that was my experience. I’d forgotten how to run. Now I remember. What was impossible is unselfconscious and glorious once more.

I don’t know if Madeleine L’Engle ever remembered how to walk across her Dog Pond. This Lent, as you reflect on things you’ve forgotten perhaps, you’ll find yourself running across yours. Impossible you say? And yet, blind men teach themselves to see (and ride bikes).

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