June 3, 2019
Have you ever watched an emerging toddler begin to take their first steps? It is often halted and usually involves a good deal of falling. When our children began to walk, what I remember most was their arms outstretched and looking straight ahead. As we cheered them on, I don’t recall analyzing their foot placement or making any judgment about how awkward they looked. We knew that we were on the cusp of a new stage parenting. Tears and cheers were inevitable. Bouncing and bruising would be a part of this new territory. Most kids don’t give up; they instead rise to their feet and take another step forward. It isn’t long before they are running all over the place.
Learning to re-walk is not as simple. Where a toddler’s gaze is straight forward, my tendency has been to look at my feet. Somehow, I felt that by watching where my foot landed, I would be less likely to fall. I’ve been concentrating on the individual step instead of my overall forward motion. What has been unusual is that it is my right foot that comes up short. The stroke affected my left side. I have little strength in my left ankle. It is reasonable to assume that my left would be hindered and not my right. Why the short step? It all boils down to fear.
I have been afraid of falling. At this point, I should have perfected it by now. It has been at least six weeks since I last fell. In order to walk correctly, I have to take a full step and trust my weight to the affected side. There is a reasonable amount of faith that it takes to shift your weight from one side to the other. It’s not something most people ever think about, but when your strength has been replaced by weakness, you see everything in a different light.
My maternal grandmother was besieged by minor strokes. Her balance was affected, and she fell numerous times. Her response was to sit in a wheelchair and never walk again. The capability was there, but she chose not to take that risk. I understand that fear, but I have been unwilling to give into it (at least most of the time.) Re-learning how to walk raises the risk of falling. That fear exacerbates my strength. I feel I might be further along in my recovery if fear was not a factor.
Last week I got mad. I came to the conclusion that I was leaning too much on the wheelchair and not enough on my own strength. I realize this might sound like heresy. I know where my strength comes from, and I’m not advocating trusting myself over trusting God. I needed to step out in faith, take my eyes off my feet, and change my focus. I wanted to push myself and free Judy from having to load the wheelchair in and out of the car. I began to slowly wean myself off of my reliance on the chair.
Last night we put the wheelchair in one of our guestrooms. This morning I walked into my home office without my wheeled friend. I loaded my computer into my backpack, throwing it over my shoulders, kissed my wife, and walked out to my car. Today would be the first time in nine months that I would drive on my own. Judy and I took a test run yesterday, but today would be the real thing. I felt like a schoolboy walking away from home for the first time. We took a picture, and I begin the short drive to the church. I felt independent for the first time in nearly a year. The trip was without incident and it took me longer to walk from my car to my office then it did for me to drive from home. The California sunshine finally beat back the June gloom this afternoon, and I drove home with the top down and blaring the soundtrack from Hamilton.
Another lesson learned. Take my eyes off myself and focus on what’s in front of me. Don’t just look at my steps but how they work together to reach my destination. I am sure I will face setbacks as the days of the calendar move on, but I am asking the Lord to help me see beyond the individual steps and run the race set before me.