In this season, my life is marked by one singular block directly outside my home. The place where God meets me, where I most accurately reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going, is no longer in a pulpit, on the road, or in words typed onto an electronic page. Every time her parents bring her over, my nearly 2 year old granddaughter Maci points to the front door and urgently pleads these words to me: “Alk. Bawi, Apa.” I choose to believe she is saying, “Walk. Bali. Pops.” Bali is my dog. Pops is me. The walk is the 200-yard stretch down to the corner and back. I used to carry her.
She now loves walking nearly the entire route. I used to run 400 yards in just over 50 seconds. It takes the three of us now over 20 minutes. They are the most sacred minutes of my week. Shuffling along, looking at details of a journey I rarely before noticed; settling into this pace, after entire weeks of intense sprinting to prove I’m still relevant, still needed. This is all new to me. I’ve been slowly learning for it to be beautiful. On this stretch, I am Maci’s safety net, allowing her to explore her whole new world. And she is becoming my safety net to re-examine this world I stopped exploring awhile back.
I kiss her and tell her I love her. She whispers back with a tender, trusting smile, “Yea.” And in that moment, just past sunset, shuffling along, with two creatures who think I’m one of the greatest humans alive, God surrounds the event. I’m almost sure He’s saying, “I have not forgotten. Someday, you will shuffle this walk with someone taking your hand, because your failing health will demand it. Today, we are walking this walk, because holding her hand is healing you. All, so you can go back out and run, in health. Take your time. I’m in no hurry. I know what’s up ahead. ‘Tis all grace my friend. Now, stop daydreaming. She’s out in the street again. You might not want to let her put that cat poop in her mouth.”
I look back. She is wearing a diaper and no shoes. We must be a sight to anyone passing by. A senile old man mindlessly wandering ahead of a child he can no longer find or dress. I scoop her up and carry her for a bit. And in that moment, I am the happiest I’ve been in a long, long time.