It was a big day today. I went on my first run since the accident over four months ago. After my fall, I vowed that I’d never let it happen again. It was a vow that wasn’t hard to keep during the winter. I don’t like cold weather, and my jaw has continued to serve as an achy reminder of that painful autumn day.
It was time to find an alternative form of exercise. One with less impact on my knees. I am in my (early) forties, after all. This was a sign. I retreated to the safety of my elliptical machine, but it just wasn’t the same. The Carolina spring has been casting its spell, and I finally succumbed to the enchantment.
I chose my path carefully. Dirt trail, not pavement, just in case. The first step evoked a strange combination of terror and exhilaration. My heart raced, not from increased work load, but from a rush of adrenaline brought on by memories of blood on pavement and a long ER wait. One slow, careful step led to another. Step after step, I was tempted to stop. Step after step, I chose to keep moving. It was an unimpressive run at best, but I couldn’t help but to feel a small sense of victory. I was no longer gripped by fear. Although slowly and cautiously, I was moving forward.
A friend recently asked me what I thought it looked like to forgive and move forward after having been hurt or betrayed. Forgiving is one thing. Trying to heal a severely wounded relationship is quite another. I found myself grasping for words. I’m not a fan of trendy, positive clichés. Too many have been tossed my way, causing further pain rather than the intended encouragement. After stumbling around in my head and trying to piece together some semblance of truth, I found I had little to say.
But now maybe I do.
While taking my first tentative steps on the trail today, I realized that for me, running would never be the same. What had once been pleasurable and instinctive has become a cautious act of will. I would never again run with complete abandon. The doctors still don’t know what caused my foot to go numb, so there is no assurance that I won’t fall again. The reality is that I could. In order to move forward, I chose to believe that what lies ahead is of greater value than that which staying still will protect. There was risk involved. It was an act of hope.
As my brisk walk morphed into a slow jog, I was granted an unanticipated gift. Before my accident, I had run without much thought or concern. As a result of my fall, I had become acutely aware of the miracle of each step. Innocence had been replaced by gratefulness. I would never again take the ability to run for granted. Although riskier, it now holds much greater value.
For four months, I had structured my world in such a way to allow for healing. I didn’t put myself in a position to be hurt again. Having gravel being dug out of my chin isn’t something I want to relive anytime soon. Protection for a time was appropriate, but with time came healing. Eventually, I had a choice to make. I could live in fear or dare to hope.
Most of us tiptoe through life avoiding pain at all cost. It’s not that we underestimate the pain of the fall. It’s that we underestimate the cost. We may gain self-protection, but we pay a high price – the price of forfeiting deeper dependence on our Maker and a life marked by freedom, peace, and the deep abiding joy for which we were created.
If I’d have given in to the strong (understandable) compulsion to play it safe, I would have missed the long-awaited warm spring day. I would have missed the chattering chipmunks’ playful game of chase. I would have missed the heads of determined blooms, which were pushing through the darkness toward the light. The very soil from which they grew and drew sustenance was a byproduct of death. Each vibrant green sprout testified that death is necessary in order to birth new life. Death, even of a dream, is to be grieved. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
In fact, it may be what comes before the very best part.
“Most of human life is Holy Saturday, a few days of life are Good Friday, but there only needs to be one Easter Sunday for us to know the final and eternal pattern. We now live inside of such cosmic hope.” Richard Rohr
To forgive and move forward starts with grieving the death of what was, yet daring to hope for what could be. It means leaning in, exchanging a posture of self-protection for a posture of loving another. It means coming to terms with the frailty of human relationship, yet being willing to depend on the Father (rather than another ) to meet my needs. It means trusting in the goodness and power of my Healer, regardless of what the future may bring.
To forgive and move forward means choosing to believe that the power of Easter Sunday can resurrect and breathe new life into the dead.
And then to live like I believe it.