After my dog, Isaac, and I were attacked by a pit bull last fall, our walks became very short and confined. At first, I only felt safe on a few streets for short periods of time. With time and effort, the walks did get longer, our territory enlarged, and the joy of exercise returned with a fresh force. Still, even with joy and peace restored months later, I avoided most of the town's 3-mile walking trail because the attack happened on one small block of it.
Recently, Isaac decided he missed the old smells of the trail. For days in a row, he pulled me towards the Main Street entrance to the trail. I fought him for a while, told him we didn't walk over there anymore, and he would pout all the way home. Last week his literal puppy dog eyes were too much to resist as he stared longingly at the trail's entrance on Main Street. I told myself we'd walk on the trail to a certain lamppost, then turn around and come back to Main Street. He obliged and didn't even mind turning around.
The next day, I though to myself, "Why not go a little farther? This was a beautiful portion of the trail. We were still a long way from where the attack occurred and could avoid that specific area completely." We walked as far as a bench, then turned around. I'm not sure who was more pleased: Isaac with himself for winning this disagreement or me with myself for winning these little victories.
Everyday we walked a little farther, and we reached the point of turning an actual corner around a gazebo. When we reached the gazebo, I was eager to continue without fear--not because of Isaac's excitement but rather because we were not alone.
City workers we've come to know by name were mowing grass all along the trail.
Fellow walkers were ahead of us and behind us.
I was able to walk without fear because I was surrounded by God's children. We did not walk much further after turning that corner, but it was enough.
In the story of Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus keeps on walking even though night is falling. He could have gone further. He was the unafraid, risen Son of God. But he stopped along the way to reveal grace to beloved friends, and then to a community. Along the walking trail, I have wanted to stop as the night of fear fell with each step. But I have begun to see that Jesus both walks ahead of me and stops to feed my soul when I can only go so far.
We all have fears that keep us from walking beyond Emmaus. Knowing how patient Jesus is with us can ease those fears. Being surrounded by fellow witnesses of God's grace can help us to move a little farther along.
Instead of dwelling on the fears within yourself, look at the cloud of witnesses outside of yourself. Take heart that you are not alone. And look ahead. You might see Jesus beckoning you to keep on moving. After all, the scents keep getting better.
all good things to each of you,