Call Me Sasquatch
Every morning, a t 3:30 am, I hit the off button on my alarm clock and the Stage Left light turns on. Truly all my world is a stage, and the director is always yelling to me “you’re on.” From 3:30 to 4:30 my costume features slippers and my role is mom. I pack lunches, lay out clothes, tidy rooms and change the laundry.
At 4:30 I slide into my flip-flops and head to gym as Personal Trainer. Five am comes quickly and so do my clients who look to me for the days motivation. I check postures, make sure glutes are engaging and praise progresses made.
From 5:45 to noon the audience grows and, with one quick costume change, I transform into Fitness Instructor. I put on my white Nikes for Group Power and recite my lines in perfect time to the beat. Winking as I call out, “give me one more chest press” (when I really mean ten more.)
I clip into my cycle shoes and keep time with the music while urging participants to give it another gear, a little more tempo, just one more jump (when I really mean ten).
Lacing up my Orange New Balance aerobic trainers, I head to the Senior Center/Benton Center/AnytimeFitness to instruct the young at heart. For them, my character yells a little less, moves a little slower, and one more always really means just one more.
The day peaks just before noon as I head to Hewlett-Packard to lead engineers and people who work in places like the business office and finance. For them, I wear my mudslingers, as we mountain climb, inchworm, and sprint our way through grass, across picnic tables, and into the sand. We lighten the intensity of the workout with friendly banter and jokes about how hard it is for them to get in a line or follow directions. And they will tell you. “One more, never means One more.”
By noon, I slide into my plain old sneakers and throw a whistle around my neck. For three hours I am behavior monitor, referee, skills tutor, and the occasional dodge ball target. When my PE teaching duties end, I morph back into mom one more time and continue my duties as behavior monitor, referee, skills tutor, and Nerf gun target.
Only when the house is silent from the day, can I let my feet go bare and become wife and pastor’s wife. Some people wear a lot of hats, I wear a lot shoes. All of which requires me to be on cue, enthusiastic, and devoted to others needs.
But there is one pair of shoes that I cherish most. They are always filthy, have lost all sense of style, and smell questionable at best. They are well-worn and much-loved. They are my trail runners. Sliding into them is like hitting the snooze button. In that moment I become just me.
As I slop through the mud, jump over logs, navigate through switch backs, I sort through the day’s obstacles. When the rain trickles down the creases of my forehead and that one bead of sweat runs down the crease of my elbow, true emotions run through my veins and are felt for the first time all day. I hear rustling in the underbrush and the trees whisper in the wind; and the voice of God finally overpowers appointments to remember, music tempos to keep, endless piles of the things still undone.
A few weeks ago I tried out Vibram Five Fingered shoes. They are a hybrid of MaryJanes and Toe Socks. Their sole purpose is to create the experience of running barefoot (the latest craze) while still protecting the foot from the harsh realities of the trails (rocks and such). The theory is that the modern tennis shoe has weakened our feet by indulging them in support. Running barefoot, therefore, should restrengthen those muscles.
I looked like Sasquatch in them.
But less than a mile into the run, I didn’t care what I looked like. Mud rushed between my toes, making me giggle a little. The ground protruding into my arches kept me on my toes and each step became more of a dance than a run. I suddenly felt lighter allowing me to scale the hills in a whole new way. The obstacles were less daunting, the emotions deeper, and the voice of God louder than ever.
I felt the world around me in a whole new way. Perhaps my trail runners had not weakened my feet so much as weakening my soul.
I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it kind of was dramatic.
I often hear people talk about needing time off from their life, about getting away from it all. As though somehow escaping will make everything better. I hear those same people return and say they need a vacation from their vacation.
Maybe escaping is not the answer. Maybe the answer is going barefoot. Experiencing instead of escaping so that we can really feel the mud and the rocks and the obstacles. When we are stripped down, God gets loud.
Jesus went into the woods in the final hours of His life, and not simply because there were a lot of people who needed Him to be a lot of things. He went away not to escape, but to experience. He felt the emotion of the cross that He faced to such a degree that blood actually replaced the sweat on His brow. He wrestled and cried out and heard God.
When Jesus came out of the woods, He was seized, and the days and hours that followed were filled with trials and agony and suffering. He faced it with strength and grace because He was not looking for an escape route.
We are told that we will face trials. In fact, there is a cross that we must bear every day. When we look to escape, our souls get weak. To stand in the strength and grace of God, we must allow the realities of our life to protrude and be dealt with.
Tomorrow, hit the snooze button. Go barefoot. Find your woods. Feel and hear.