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Should I really go for a walk today? Haven’t most of us been told to stay home? And, truth be told, I like to stay home. At first it felt like a kindness to me, to be told to stay home. Back when we all left our house every day, I might leave and enter my own driveway up to a dozen times in one day. I was ready to stop running. I longed for a couch to lie upon.
Staying home meant I was no longer trying to steady myself in each tailspin of a day. And now, rather than trying to outrun an invisible, lurking virus I could, and technically should, stay safe at home. Even better, I was helping the whole world fight this virus simply by staying home. I believe in helping people. In fact, helping people helps me thrive. But, I was plumb tuckered out before all this. Stay home to help? That, I was willing and able to do.
But I’ve realized that, even as I stay home, it is important— for me— to go out for a walk. Every day.
This isn’t really anything new under the sun. During times of burnout, transition, pain, and overwhelming unknowns many people, famous and otherwise, have been known to go for a walk. There is something tried and true about the goodness of getting outside and moving your body. I think of the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed, or Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. They both went for very long walks. What about Forrest Gump? He sure got outside and got his body moving! In my own life, after graduating from seminary and before my first call, I distinctly remember the longing within me that was the impetus for a trip out east to walk the Adirondack paths.
Sometimes we just need to get outside and get moving.
Every morning after breakfast and before my children begin their at-home schoolwork, I take our dog for a walk. She has always had her walk then, after breakfast and before the rest of the day’s requirements, so it felt good and necessary to keep that part of the routine as we began this new season. It was necessary for the dog, I thought, but I soon realized how necessary it was for me. I needed to get outside and get moving.
I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised that being at home all day, every day, protecting the world from a virus, makes me a bit crazy. Within our four safe, sturdy walls, I too quickly find my heart riding the riptides of fear and anxiety. I find my mind slowing down, stagnating even. If I take a mental picture of myself, I see my arms hanging like dead-weights, shoulders slumped, feet dragging from room to room. And this while keeping plenty busy with the routines of life, and both work and schooling from home. Keeping busy inside and having a schedule have not solved all my problems. (It never did, really!)
Every day, now, I need to go outside and walk my dog. I need this not only because my steps perk up and my heart beats to life, but because it rejuvenates my mind. I need the percolation of thoughts that happens on a walk. Out on the sidewalks and among the green, growing things something expands within me, and I think it is life.
When I go out on a walk, the creator God breathes new life into me. I see the created color of plants coming to life again after winter. I see birds pulling worms from the earth and building nests. I see bees and bunnies. In the lingering cold, I can see my own breath. I am alive. And, creation lives around me. On my walk, I want nothing more than to thank the Creator for life and living things.
Outside, beyond the brick walls and wifi technology and humming refrigerators, I also think of those whom I love. I think of my family, my neighbors, my church. I think of the many beloved friends that I have been blessed with in and around the world. I hold each one in my heart.
Sometimes, I think about relationships that need mending. Sometimes, I think about what each one of my dear ones face in a day. As we shelter ourselves in place, attempting to protect one another from the wild pain of a virus and death, I think of the wounds that each of us brought with us into captivity. I think about what our walls hold in, and what our walls hold out.
Somehow, it is only on these walks that I am able to withstand the weight of our global pain. Out in the air, moving my body, I better remember the God who made the world, loves the world, heals the world. Tripping along the sidewalks I am somehow able to get beyond myself and the place where I feel stuck. I move with great, gulping gratitude into the life-giving, invigorating presence of God, God who loves and sustains us through each new season.
If you are able, go out for a walk. Go encounter the creative, living force of God today.