Legend has it Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story with only six words. He returned with this:
So much is said with such economy.
If you were to write your life story in six words, what would you say?
Here’s my six-word story: Learning to walk took fifty-nine years.
My mother said I never learned how to walk. I only learned how to run.
Running Is Life
Running is the metaphor of my life.
Looking back on the different chapters of my life, there are
* The Starting Line
* Running Into the Wind
* Running on Empty
* Hitting My Stride
* Running to Win
Now I am moving into a new chapter. This chapter is the first in my life which does not include running.
I began feeling new aches and pains a few years ago after runs. Several doctor visits, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, and MRIs led one doctor to tell me rather frankly that my running days were over.
“No more marathons or half-marathons?” I asked for clarification.
“No more running.”
“No more 10Ks and 5Ks?” I asked for consideration.
“No more running.”
“No more recreational running for physical fitness?” I asked for consolation.
“No more running.”
Grief is too polite a word to express my true feelings. In fact, I do not think I can ably, sufficiently describe the gut reaction of this reality.
Walking out of the doctor’s office that day I had one singular ambition. I wanted to get into the car before I cried.
Isaiah 40 ends this with these words:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (NIV 1984)
I will soon celebrate my sixty-first birthday. I have arrived at the walk and not be faint stage of life.
Learning to walk took fifty-nine years.
Learning to Walk
There is my next chapter title: Walk and Not Faint.
My bride used to say to me in our younger years, “Let’s go for a walk.” My responses were somewhat unpleasant and irritable. I despised walking. Walking was far too slow. People tend to want to hold hands and talk when they walk.
Running, on the other hand, is more solitary. It is best done without headphones or conversation with any human. Dogs make good running partners. They understand. It is all about going somewhere quickly and quietly.
Thoughts are processed during a good, long run. Ideas are contemplated. Conversations are rehearsed. Decisions are made. Prayers are prayed.
Distance running requires intermediate goals to finish training runs or races like,
I will run at this pace to that tree and then pick up the pace for two full minutes,
At mile eight, I will enjoy a GU Energy Gel.
It feels good to accomplish tasks and to finish strong.
It was finishing strong on an uphill run a few years ago that sent me to the doctor who told me, “No more running.” The last footfall strained my ankle and sent shockwaves of pain through my body.
You know what happened next. Here is what is happening now.
Ollie and I enjoyed a pleasant and prayer-filled walk this morning. The temperature was crisp. The skies were clear. The winds were calm. Steam rose from the creek. Ducks in migration prepared for another day of travel. Leaves showed off one more time before taking their bows.
Walking reminds me not to hurry so much. Some thoughts require reflection. The Shepherd Psalm (Psalm 23) reminds us that God makes us lie down, he leads us beside still waters, he restores our souls. None of these are accomplished in a hurry.
Maybe walking is not so bad. Maybe my bride and our black dog Millie will join us next time. Ollie will lead. Millie will follow. My bride and I will talk softly, listen carefully, and pass the miles prayerfully.
We might even hold hands.
What’s your six-word story?