Sunday, February 13, 2011

Long Walks

I've been on some painfully long walks. And I'm not necessarily talking about the distance or the time. These walks are painful because of the obstacles along the way or the monster of a problem waiting at the end. There was the time in 2008 when I was hiking in the Alps with my brother and was furious with him; smoke was spewing from my nose for a solid hour. There was the time in middle school when I walked our old golden retriever, Odie, and he decided he was tired and kept sitting down; this was especially hard when he sat in the middle of a busy intersection. There was the time a few weeks ago when I ran out of gas and had no shoes and a pinched nerve.

Then there was the time in seventh grade when I was called into the Principal's office. I had been secretly carving letters into the desk at the very moment my math teacher told me to go to see the Principal. She didn't say why. I assumed it was because she had seen me carving letters in the desk. I assumed this was so criminal a crime that only the Principal could deal with such an offensive offense. I gulped and bit back tears and trudged to the office, head down, knees trembling. I had been caught and the guilt was eating me up inside. What would I say? How could I explain myself? I don't remember what I had been writing but I'm sure it was something along the lines of "I love Leonardo." What would my punishment be? Would my parents be called? What would they do to me? Am I too old for a spank? Would this go on my permanent record? Would I still get into college some day?

These were the thoughts plaguing me as I walked to the office. It was a very long walk. It was a "green mile" type of walk for a 13-year old perfectionist. I still see myself shaking and timidly entering his office. Turns out I was receiving some nerd award but what I remember more than the award was that awful walk.

I had another long walk last week. I had scheduled a meeting before school with parents wanting to talk about their son. Hostile parents wanting to talk about their son. I had met with them last semester and it had not gone well. Then their son did not do well in my class. There were issues of honesty and ucky, unfun topics I knew that had to be discussed; there was no avoiding it.

There are some times in life when I have avoided these walks- times when I've bypassed confrontation and wriggled out of a situation- ignored it and prayed it would go away, rather than walking straight towards it. I didn't want to face my problems; I didn't want to journey on those painful walks where pending doom and destruction/an awkward confrontation were waiting at the end; so I chose not to.

And it is ironically those walks that I didn't take, that are now the most painful because they are untaken walks speckled with regret. Those are the walks that continue to hurt only because I wimped out and didn't take them; didn't follow the Spirit's leading; didn't listen to my conscience; ignored that voice in my head or explained it away. And I can't get those walks back.

I recently read a hilarious and insightful post where the author, a hilarious and insightful missionary in Costa Rica, explains this issue of facing confrontation. As a warning, her post involves a dead cat so if you are a cat person, be prepared to be a tiny bit sad. If you are not a cat person, be prepared to laugh wholeheartedly.

But the walk I took last week could not be avoided because it wasn't up to me. I had to journey on it. It was the walk from my car to my classroom. It's probably about 47 steps. 47 very long steps on this particular Tuesday morning. My hair was not cooperating that morning so I was a few minutes late and the hostile parents were already waiting outside my classroom, arms crossed, looking peeved. I gulped and began the green mile.

However, I experienced something pretty sweet while I was walking; something almost magical. I felt a voice in my head say, "you should pray." But I didn't know what to pray. So I prayed, "help." But then I heard something that I can only explain as the Holy Spirit's voice. It was a thought that threaded through my mind and I knew was not from myself. I've read the verse about the Holy Spirit helping us know what to pray when we need Him to:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

but I had never actually experienced it; until Tuesday. Because one line came to my mind and was so powerful, so transforming, that it changed everything- the meeting and my day.

"Make me like you."

I know it's simple but here's the thing. I knew if I showed up to this meeting, it was not going to go well. I was going to get defensive and feel attacked and not respond well. I needed Jesus to be in that meeting instead. And He was. Because when I prayed "make me like you" it felt like a weight tumbled from my shoulders. I had dropped my pride and it was a heavy load. I had dropped my selfishness and it had been quite cumbersome. In return, I had been filled with a peace and a perspective that was clearly not my own.

I was able to see these parents as hurting, rather than hostile. I was able to see them through Jesus' eyes and I hurt for them. I wanted to embrace them (which you know isn't from me since I hate hugging) and comfort them and encourage them. So we met and discussed the ucky, unfun issues and a funny thing happened; an incredible thing happened. When I dropped my pride, so did they. And we were sitting there, hearts open, being honest with each other and suddenly not concerned about who was right. At one point, the mother began to cry. So of course I cried too. And as we sat there, cheeks wet with tears, I knew this is how it was supposed to be. This was a conversation without pride weaseling in, without sin getting in the way.

They left encouraged and hopeful for their son but I think I was even more encouraged and more hopeful than they. Because I got to witness something amazing that morning. I got to see the Spirit inspire a prayer. I got to see God answer it. I got to see Jesus in me. And it was wonderful. It was a wonderfully, long walk.


  1. OK, this one goes in a devotional book, Katie! Sooo good. Thanks for being so transparent.

  2. This may be the most important thing you have shared here yet. I love "Drop Down Katie."

    Doing some Merton today in class. That was " true you."

  3. thanks, katie- as always from the heart, made me laugh, and made me think too... I concur with angie - totally in a devo book. :)