Confession: I’m an early riser. That’s the nice way for me to say “Why body, WHY must you wake up at 7 am even if bedtime is 6:45 am??? WHHHHYYY?” and the nice way for everybody else to say “Why must you be so (insert expletive here) cheery in the morning? Our friendship is over.”
This summer, when life twisted and turned around and became something new, my morning work arrival time became 10 am. As in roughly a trillion, brazillion hours after I get up. For the first week or so, I would rush through my morning routine (up, walk, shower, dressed, eat, bible, journal, go) and be ready to leave around 8:30, leaving me plenty of time to stand in the middle of the kitchen staring with an intense awkwardness at the clock as it tick tick ticked at a maddeningly slow pace toward 9:45 until I ran out of the door at 8:35, knocking over potted plants and small children, shouting “I’LL JUST GET THERE EARLY.”
Oh, how times have changed.
Over the last few months I’ve come to love the slower, more relaxed feel of a morning that isn’t hurriedly marching towards an 8 AM call time at work. I feel more settled, more ready for the day- more grounded.
Now, I get up around 7, walk, run or bike for a little while (and by “or bike”, I mean I tried that 3 times and almost died. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, LANCE ARMSTRONG? Tour de France, Schmour de France. Try the Arkansas mountains. ), and on my more relaxed, longer explorations of our housing complex, I met Lewis.
Lewis is an older man who lives at the very edge of my neighborhood in a towering mansion- just him and his little poofy white dog named Lacey. We passed each other for several mornings just nodding “hi” before little Lacey decided I was less “friendly young jogger” and more “dangerous weapon carrying criminal” and decided chase me down the street while I ran faster than I ever have and shouted over my shoulder in a high-pitched voice “help me! Help me!”
I’m not ashamed. Being chased by a small dog is terrifying, people. TERRIFYING.
Since that day, we’re become an oddly matched pair of acquaintance-friends, exchanging light information about our lives. You know, a little “how’s your morning going” that was followed by a little “how’s your summer going” and eventually turned into a little “how’s your life going”? As our friendship developed, I noticed that every morning after our quick chat, Lewis packed up a huge cooler, struggled to lift it up over his 70-year-old shoulders and into the back of his truck, lifted Lacey into the passenger seat and pulled out in the road, out on the main street, out to his life.
After coming up with various fake backstories for Lewis (my personal favorite was that he was high up in NASA and in the cooler was some sort of top-secret experiment he was working on. Oh, and that Lacey was actually a robot), I finally asked him about the mystery cooler this week while we stopped to have our morning talk. He hesitated, and then in his gruff old man voice said “I visit my wife”.
“Yes. *pause* She isn’t… okay. She isn’t well.”
“I’m so sorry, Lewis.” I reached out for his hand.
And whatever had been holding him in crumbled and the words poured out as I watched tears slide down well-worn paths in his cracked wrinkled (beautiful) skin and he told me the story (his story) of how he packs up his wife’s makeup every day, puts it into a cooler, and drives over to the nursing home where he carefully applies lipstick and eyeliner with a shaking hand and I can imagine that each stroke of blush spells out “I love you” across her face. Then he sits and talks to her, as much as she is able, and reminds of her of years of joys and blessings and life and on good days, he prays with her. And he swiped roughly at his cheeks and I heard the words “scared” and “tired” and “alone” fall from his mouth, intertwined, and I asked him, “could I pray with you?” and saw his head nod, slightly, and just once. And then we bowed, on that sidewalk, and I thought how do you pray for someone who lives out every day the kind of love that is the (smallest, tiniest, but no less real) taste of the way Our Creator loves us?
I’ve thought of him often the past few days, his amazing testament to a life of faith and love and… a life well lived. And friends, in my rushed morning life, I would have missed it.
These humans with their stories? They live everywhere we live. They live in the mansion at the end of the block, but they also live in the grocery store lines and at our workplaces and we have to find them.
Are we the church? Then we have to find them. Because their stories, their lives MATTER.
They matter. To Christ. And they should matter to us.
I want to do better at this. Too many days are too busy of must-get-heres and must-go-theres and I miss the opportunities to stop and take moments to get to know the people God has placed here and now. To let them get to know me.
Lewis, thanks for letting me share your story, friend. Thanks for reminding me that living like Jesus means living intentionally even during a morning walk.
I’m not there. But I’m learning. (praise God). (praise, God).
Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. I John 2:7-8.