He Walks With Me
A couple of weeks ago I began to think about walking alone with Grizzly.
He’s been walked almost daily since I got him, but I’m always accompanied by my daughter or a friend who walks regularly with me. I’d told myself there was no rush, that healing takes time, that until our daughter moves away after her wedding in June, she’s willing to go with me or walk him for me. I even fantasized about turning my husband into a walker after my daughter moves away. I pictured us strolling Grizzly around the neighborhood after supper on summer evenings. There’s no rule that says I ever had to walk him alone if I don’t want to or can’t muster the courage.
And yet, I kept thinking about going alone, imagining it, wondering if I could ever do it and when that would be. I also felt stuck. Stuck in my healing, stuck in my writing, stuck in my prayers, stuck in my house and in other people’s routines - just stuck!
Do I need to take a step out of the driveway alone with my dog in order to move forward with you, God? This was the question I posed in prayer one morning.
Later in a morning yoga class, the teacher said, “You have to feel it to heal it.” Her words echoed in my mind throughout the day. I knew I needed to let myself feel and acknowledge the fear and weakness I felt about the first walk. I also knew I didn’t have to do it - ever. And yet, I wanted to take steps alone with Grizzly for bigger reasons than I understood and I wanted to do it sooner rather than later.
For much of my life, I’ve looked for validation outside myself and willingly given authority, and thus responsibility, over to others. Sometimes I have been guarded and shepherded well by those in authority. Sometimes not. I’ve had many wise teachers who’ve led me along life’s path, but lately I’ve sensed a need to trust more deeply the Voice within, to resist the desire to be validated by external authority, to be willing to let my life change and to be willing to be misunderstood. I tend to over-explain; I’m trying to stop that and just give an answer. I long to be certain of the Shepherd’s voice.
Since January, I’ve been walking with a friend at a nearby golf course on the day it’s closed to golfers. Initially it was just a safe place to walk when I couldn’t bear to be on public streets, but now it’s become a place to enjoy nature one day a week. The course has three ponds and it’s not uncommon to see two dozen turtles sunning on the banks of them as we approach each one. What is uncommon is to see a turtle all alone out on the cart path where we walk.
During the same week I became obsessed with walking Grizzly alone, I encountered a turtle who’d made his way across the green and was almost on the path. He caught me eye, then my attention, then my camera lens. I found myself stepping up closer and closer to him, wondering what he was doing there, so far from the pond and away from his turtle friends.
Long after my walk, I kept thinking about that lone turtle and the question I had prayed:
Do I need to take a step out of the driveway alone with my dog in order to move forward with you, God?
Could I do it? Was I ready? I kept thinking about 2 Corinthians 12:9- that’s God’s power is seen and felt and experienced in our weakness. Owning the weakness comes before experiencing the power.
Two days after I asked the question, I awoke early in the morning with the thought, “Today is the day.” It was one of those before-complete-consciousness moments when your eyes haven’t opened yet and your brain hasn’t had enough daylight or caffeine to talk you out of it.
I took my time with coffee and chores, and about mid-morning asked my daughter, “Want to go with me to walk Grizzly?”
“Not right now,” she said, and I knew God was using everything from turtles to daughters to help me trust Him.
“I think I’m going to go on by myself,” I choked out, “It’s time.” I got my pepper spray, my phone, and leashed my 92 lb. dog and walked out the door. I took a deep breath in the driveway and reminded God that my soul and body belong to him. I stepped into the street, owning my fear and weakness, with a strong, powerful German Shepherd next to me.
I made one loop around the neighborhood; I was never more than half a mile from my house. I watched every car that passed and noticed every person inside each one. My central nervous system was on high alert. I could feel myself on the brink of tears. But I did it. I walked alone…with a strong, powerful Shepherd beside me.