While Isaac enjoys all of his walks, he especially loves "leading" our sabbath strolls. With no agenda or deadlines, I let him guide the way (unless we reach a busy highway or other precarious situation!). Monday's walk was no different. Earbuds secure and attached to my phone, I provided background vocals and a little interpretive dance to Chris Tomlin's "The Roar" (another casualty of sabbath), as Isaac sniffed and scratched the neighborhood.
Mid-twirl, I noticed that I had taken the lead. Isaac limped a few steps behind me. I paused my "concert" to kneel down and examine his paws. One, two, three, four. No glass. No stickers. No cuts. No scrapes. I told him to shake it off and come along. He tried. But then he stopped again and lifted his front left paw off of the ground. He looked up at me. Have you ever noticed that animals have a lot to say if we stop and look at their eyes? Without speaking, Isaac said to me, "The problem is this paw. Look again."
I removed the earbuds and knelt again next to the lifted paw. I carefully looked between each toe. I spread the pads of his paws and scraped away the dirt. And there it was. Tucked into the crevices of his paw was a small sphere with a torn edge: an acorn.
Careful not to touch him with the ragged edge, I removed the acorn and placed his paw back on the ground. He hesitantly put his weight back on it. Realizing all four feet were back in working order, he took off with tail wagging, dragging his surgeon behind him. I know that was his bow-wow way of saying, "Thanks."
A few weeks ago, I "remastered" a musing about why I do what I do and compared the work of ministry to being a "doctor of the heart and feet." Isaac's encounter with the acorn provided a 'remastered' image of not only the work of the pastor but also the work of the Church.
We all have acorns in our soul. They're not all necessarily dangerous, but they slow us down. If we ignore them for too long, the jagged edges dig into our hearts and can cause long-term damage.
We hold on to a regret of words spoken--or left unspoken.
We bury our dreams and callings in the interest of people-pleasing security.
We cut our eyes jealously at the person who seems to have everything we don't.
We blame God for seemingly-unanswered prayers.
We refuse to ask for help.
Isaac had no trouble asking for help. He could only continue his joyful walk if I intervened. We human beings are not so quick to admit our need for help. We would rather limp with the acorn than leap with the aid.
Shouldn't Church be the place where we can confess our need for help with those we love and trust? Shouldn't Church also be the place where we take the time to look into each other's eyes to hear what's unspoken?
I love Brennan Manning's phrase, "the victorious limp," because it reminds us of our deep need for grace. An undeserved gift. The help we receive when we can no longer help ourselves. An admission that we need help extracting the acorns that dig at our heels.
A community of faith is a gathering of people who seek one another's health and wholeness. Every member matters. Every body matters. And when life's load causes one of us to limp, another can step forward to bring us back in step. Such loving care demands that we pay attention. We spend a lot of time looking at the outward 'paws,' but so often we don't truly 'see' each other's needs.
Where do you need grace today?
Who needs grace from you today?
all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian (and Paw-stor Isaac)
To read more of Isaac's insights, click on the hashtag, #insightfromisaac below. If you are reading this post over email, visit www.darianduckworth.com/musings and click on #insightfromisaac