A balmy Saturday found us leaving the cats to their naps and driving north to Seattle. “We’re testing the waters,” Mike and I each said to ourselves, for different reasons.
While trying to tackle life in manageable chunks (six minutes at a time), I’m looking for normal routines that mask the truth that I’m still unsettled. I jump at every strange sound Mike makes or if I hear something fall far off in the house. I even jump at school when the kids bump against their desks or make noises that sound like someone isn’t breathing right.
Mike is looking for his normal self; testing the waters of his physical endurance. Usually he doesn’t appear eager at the suggestion of going for a walk. This has been true our entire marriage, so when I showed him the list of area “hikes” and suggested we make them our goal this year, I was surprised at his exuberance. “Let’s do it. I choose Green Lake for today.”
Green Lake throws us into the heart of our college years … the years where we met each other … where we puzzled over our futures and over God’s plans for our lives. Less than two miles from the UW campus, I can recall several walks with a number of friends. We discussed who we might marry. Wondered what life would bring. We hoped. Laughed. Dreamed. And we squealed as we jumped out of the way of wobbly kids on skates and speedsters on bikes.
It’s interesting to go back to a marker in the past where my younger self physically stood (or, in this case – walked) and pondered the future.
“I’m here,” I said in my head as I walked alongside Mike today. “I made it. I’m in my future.”
Sometimes I tell my students, “While you sit there, not paying attention to me because you’re dreaming about your future, keep in mind that you are the answer to the same question I asked 30+ years ago.”
“I dreamed about what I would do with my life … and here I am … with you.”
Then I grow quiet and let them ponder whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. (Smile.)
No. My life today isn’t quite what I pictured back then. No book published yet. Only travelled a few places in the world. We live in rental house in a rough neighborhood in Tacoma. Career changes. Near death experiences. Plans on hold. Bills stacked up. Not really the stuff dreams are made of.
Or … is this what I pictured? Is this the dream?
“Jesus, let me follow You wherever You lead. Don’t let me fall prey to a bitter heart when the years pig-pile on top of me. Let me be content to be a ‘doorkeeper in Your court‘ if it means I am close to You.”
Mike was quiet most of the walk. He has been quieter than normal since the whole December 20th episode started. Lots of one word or single sentence answers to my frequent, “Ya doing okay?”
Three minutes later. “Everything good?”
“I’m fine. Really.”
“We don’t have to do the whole loop. I can go get the car, or we can turn back right away.”
“We want to get ready for the big hike, right?”
The “big hike”, we decided, will be Wallace Falls. We talked about doing it last year, but the car broke down. Now we’re looking at it again for late Spring or early Summer.
Mike stayed steady the entire loop, not seeking to sit down until the very end.
“You seem pleased with yourself,” I said over our snack of pistachios and boiled eggs.
“I am. I needed to know that I could still do this.” That’s when I learned that he was testing the waters. He wanted to feel in touch with that young college guy who could jog the loop if he wanted. And I wanted to know that we could do another trip away from home without ending up in an ambulance, because, yes, I still fight back worse case scenarios several times a day.
The whole day made me think of the movie, As Good As It Gets. The hero of the movie – or of my own story – doesn’t have to be all that polished. Quirky, incomplete, healing … imperfect is allowed. It’s actually pretty thrilling to surrender over-polished expectations and come to peace with Him who I’ve asked to live on the inside.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25