Saturday, February 16, 2008

Walk Blamelessly

She who walks blamelessly will be delivered, but she who is crooked will fall all at once.
- Proverbs 28:18

I fell today.

Usually, for me, this means I gave in to an old temptation that used to be a stronghold in my life.

Today, I actually fell down.

I awoke this morning all full of restless angst over a hard choice I must make. At times like these, I play the piano. We live next door to our church, so the best piano to play is across the yard.

A little before 7 am, I grabbed my church keys, shoved my socked feet into some flip flops, and headed out the door. The sound of delighted chirping immediately lifted my spirits as the birds in my favorite maple tree sang their uninhibited morning praises to Abba Father, their heart song cutting through the soupy fog which enveloped the yard and completely obscured the orchard just across the road.

Padding across the front porch, I put my foot onto the first of our two steps which live between our raised front porch and the sidewalk below.

It happened in slow motion.

I heard, rather than felt, my foot slip off the frosty step.

I stared in numb wonder as my sandal parted company with my toes and sailed gracefully through the air, coming to rest ten or so feet in front of me.

My next sensation was that of floating, as for a fraction of a second, I experienced weightlessness.

My arm shot out, groping mindlessly for the handrail, as the rest of my body followed my shoe's journey through the air.

My oversized derriere put its voluminosity to good use in two ways: 1) it cushioned the impact of my landing, as it 2) bounced me (Yes. Bounced me.) down two steps to meet the cold, uncaring concrete.

My other arm, after flailing comically through the air, had the presence of mind, at the last second, to break my fall, jamming its hand onto the hard cement.

I came to rest in what I'm sure is a yoga position of some kind, with one hand clinging desperately to the handrail above the back of my head, the other arm pressed into the sidewalk behind me at a weird angle, one leg completely extended straight in front of me, and the other twisted awkwardly out to the side wondering silently, where's my shoe?

I took a moment to gulp some air into my lungs as I did a body check. Nothing broken. Good. I could feel a large bruise starting to form on my lower back, which had met the front of the bottom step at the point of impact.

A large lump stung the inside of my right forearm where I'd slammed it onto the handrail.

My left shoulder, which absorbed the blow when my left hand met the concrete to break my fall, throbbed heavily as it radiated pain up into my neck, down to the middle of my back, and all the way to my tingling fingertips.

Slightly dizzy, I sat stunned on the ground for several seconds, watching my breath crystallize in the frosty air in short, sharp spurts.

I knew the best course of action would be to go back inside and ice my back. But I didn't do it. I opted to medicate my turmoiled emotions, as originally planned.

Retrieving my shoe, I trudged to my office for my piano solo books, walked stiffly through the church building to the piano, and played for an hour and a half, lamenting soulfully through Yann Tiersen's poignant French melodies, pounding rebelliously through Kuhlau's sustained runs and hollow resolutions, and switching gears to finally surrender to the relentless presence of God's unfailing love, expressed tenderly by Chris Tomlin.

Emotionally calm, but still feeling slightly unsettled (i.e. unsurrendered), I made my way back home. When I reached the scene of my accident, a surprising sight met my eyes.

The handrail was crooked. I'd thought my shoulder had taken all the impact, but here was proof to the contrary. I'd actually torn the handrail partially away from the deck railing. It had played a much bigger role in my predicament than I'd realized.


The thing is, I could have avoided this fall, if I'd been watching the signs.

It's a foggy, February pre-dawn? I'm sure it's not slippery out!

Shoes with traction? Flip flops are fine! They're made by Nike!

Watch where I'm going? But the birds are singing so melodiously I must turn my dreamy face to the heavens as I walk.

Handrail? I don't need the handrail! I never use handrails. They slow me down. I'm fine without the handrail!

Looking at the twisted handrail which had silently taken the brunt of my bold self-reliance, I knew if I'd reached for it *before* my foot slipped, I would have made it safely down the stairs. I did reach for it after I was in so much trouble that there was no way out, and it was there for me, just as I knew it would be. But it had also been there for me when I didn't think I needed it, when it could have done its job cleanly and peacefully by making my footsteps sure.

I reflected on the hard choice which had driven me to the emotional outlet of my piano in the first place. And I knew. To ignore the choice, or to make the wrong choice, would result in a fall. The kind of fall I'm more used to. The fall that means I've given in, once again, to the remnant of an old stronghold in my life.

Regarding my old temptations, I have a history of falling. God always catches me, and He always takes the brunt of my bold self-reliance, making each fall as painless for me as possible and covering me with the shed blood of His Son.

But this time, I want to change the course of history. I want to walk blamelessly in the first place, clinging to the handrail with all my might just in case the ground beneath my feet turns out to be slippery. I don't want to fall all at once. Again.

Finally letting the uneasiness melt out of my spirit, I acknowledged my proud independence, admitted my need, opened my heart, and reached for Abba.