You lace up your shoes; tie them tight, double-knotted, like you’re trying to bind up all the loose ends to this day and you wish it were only that easy.
The day has tossed you around from the very beginning, chipped away at your spirit like the thin edges of a sea-shell breaking, tumbling inward, then out, as if the entire ocean washed open your front door this morning and was there all day simply to drown you.
So you do what almost always works: you lace up your shoes and focus your breathing, in and out, in and out, feet hitting pavement, heart pounding in your chest, hundreds of thousands of beats reminding you you’re still alive, that no matter how bad the day has been, you will live through it.
But then you run down the street with the old man always tinkering on rusted cars in his garage and there, in front of his dilapidated house lies a cat, dead, flies buzzing, landing on the red and angry bits jutting out amongst its soft, black fur. There’s another cat, maybe its lover, standing on the roadside and he doesn’t move when you run past, just stares at you solemnly as if he’s waiting for the dead to rise again or for the dead to be carried away, as if he’s waiting for someone to tell him how to grieve.
You think about the son, then, how he screamed as you pulled his slumped father from the car onto the ambulance garage floor and started CPR, how the tubes from his recent heart surgery squirted onto your pants. But most of all, you think of how the son buried his face in his father’s almost cold hand fifteen minutes later and begged for a life that had passed.
You think about your friend whose stepdad held a gun to his head the day before Father’s Day and chose that this one precious life wasn’t precious enough.
You think about cancer attacking your wife’s friend and how the husband, when asking “how long do we have”, was told simply to enjoy every remaining day they were given together.
You think and you think.
And then you stop running. The breath comes jagged, sharp in your chest. You double over, panting hard. So you turn around like you want to make this right with the cat because this is the only thing you can do. But when you turn around, you think about how absurd this is, trying to bury the dead and heal the world with your bare hands. So you linger there, bent over just staring at the cracks in the pavement on School Street and Randolph and wondering how you can sink into them forever and one second you’re laughing and the next you’re crying like a mad man dying in a war.
You turn again; turn back toward the open road and your heart beats wild again and you just let the tears and sweat mix and the miles turn into more miles until you find yourself exhausted, on the stairs leading up to an old church with a steeple pointing firm toward the clouds and isn’t this how it always is: you can never truly outrun life’s worries and when you finally stop, everything you were outrunning lies there waiting.
Knees hit the steps. Head bows. Sweat drips from the tip of your nose, a puddle of all this life’s angst growing bolder on that concrete church step.
Sometimes half the battle is won in acknowledging you can’t stand under the weight of this world and the other half of the battle is won in acknowledging someone Who can.
“God, why can’t I let go?”
“Because you don’t believe in the end I’ll get it right,” His reply comes quick.
And there it is.
Worry is what takes over a person, slowly, like the tide of the ocean rising steady and you’re stuck there in the sand, consumed by the fear, unable to move as the waters rise. Yes, worry is what happens when faith in a God who works all things together for good isn’t relied on, when casting all your cares on Him seems impossible because the water is already up around your neck, this noose of life squeezing.
And then it happens.
The water rises more and you’re stuck there, toes stretching for the sandy bottom, pushing yourself up, bobbing, trying to keep your head above water until the ocean floor is gone and it’s just you, out there, floating in the deep, wondering how long until the worry goes away, until this tide of fear flows back into the dark depths where ships will steam over it as if it were nothing at all.
You float and the sensation of not being in control isn’t so bad so you lay your head back, stare straight into the azure sky and the sun is warm on your face and you wonder why it took you so long to let go, why it always takes you nearly drowning before relying on Someone other than yourself to hold you afloat.
And your tears slide silently into the ocean, mixed there, salt joining salt and you think about how not even the oceans could contain the love God has for you and this is what you decide to think about instead; how your tears of regret mix so easily into the vastness of His love… as if every worry and fear you ever had are now forgotten, are now forgiven.
The steeple sways dizzily against the clouds and you’re brought back, lying there on your back on the stairs of a tiny country church so you sit up, tighten your laces again and push toward home. Yes, you push through this scary, messy existence called life: you push toward Home and you remind yourself once again, there’s One to guide you all the way.