during my sabbatical, i had a spiritual practice of going for a walk every day for an hour, while reflecting on one of ten questions given to me by my friend and advisor, mark dowds (the walking and reflecting was followed by another 30 – 60 minutes of journaling, the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper). they were great questions — maybe i’ll post them seperately. anyhow, i’m not much of a walker – i have wimpy feet. but walking on the beach in hawaii at sunset kinda jump-started the plan. so when i returned home for the second two-weeks of my sabbatical, it wasn’t difficult to keep up the discipline. a few times, back at home, i went for a walk on a beautiful path through the woods behind our old house (2 miles from where we live now). it’s about a mile-long loop, and has a great variety of visuals, from brushy scrub (almost tumbleweed) and drooping willows, and ending in an aromatic and peaceful stand of eucalyptus trees.
one day, i was on my walk, and max (8 years-old) asked jeannie where i was. she explained. his response was, “really? i want to go on a walk!” jeannie assumed he just wanted to get out, and started talking about how they could go on a walk together. max interrupted: “no, i mean, i want to go on a walk by myself!” then he stopped, realizing this would never be possible for him at his age. his face fell, and he said, “i’m too little. you’d never let me go on a walk by myself. but i wish i could.”
the next day, the three of us planned the walk and drove to the starting point. max had a backpack with an apple, a piece of string cheese, a bottle of water, and jeannie’s cell phone. jeannie set out on the path, creating the front bumper. when she was barely in sight (probably a couple-hundred yards), i told him he could start walking. i waited until he was the same distance, then i set out, as the back bumper. at one point he ran up to jeannie to get help opening his string cheese. and at one point he climbed onto a rock to eat his apple and yelled out to me as i approached, “hi dad! i’m just resting for a bit and eating my apple!” i waited at a distance, because i didn’t want to disturb his plans for a walk by himself.
i’ll cherish this story for a long time, because it’s a little window into max’s depth. he said he loved it, and we should do it again, but he didn’t want to talk about what he’d spent his time thinking about (which is fair, they were his thoughts to hide if he wished). but last night we were retelling this to a friend, and another friend who’d previously heard it said: “i love the max part of the story. but i also love how marko and jeannie were a great picture of god — that god goes to great lengths to give us the desires of our hearts, that god is willing to set up the safety and boundaries (be the front and back guard), and help us pack our little backpack, all so we can have our walk in the woods.”
i’m not trying to play god. but i did like that thought of the multiple imagery of max’s desire to walk by himself.