Run Like An Eight Year Old


This is my mom’s house. I drive 500 miles to get here. I endure traffic from Baltimore, MD to nearly Richmond, VA. This trip I got a flat tire shortly before arriving, 7pm on Saturday when no shop is open. I finally made it to the house with a few groceries, and I simply wanted a hot shower and to go to bed. The water was cold. Thanks to a diagnosis over the phone from my husband, I learned that the fuse had tripped for the hot water heater. It was a long day. But you know what? I would do it all again. And I will, as soon as I can.

The house is small, as you can see. There really isn’t much to it. But the property has been a constant in my life for over 20 years. It is a place of respite, sanctuary, healing, centering. It is a place of joy and relaxation. It is a place that inspires and challenges me. It is a place where I can most clearly hear my voice. And that’s because when I walk past the house and into the expansive yard beyond, this is what I see:


I have always loved the ocean. And I am so grateful to have a place where I can find myself again. Today I ran on the beach with my arms stretched out wide like an eight year old kid. My 14 year old labrador ran next to me like a puppy. I didn’t see anyone around, but I imagine if someone caught a glimpse of us, they would’ve had a chuckle. I ran with my face upward, laughing out loud, the sun shining and the wind blowing my hair. I ignored the voice in my head that told me I looked silly. I felt free and overflowing with unadulterated joy. I felt the weight of life slip off my shoulders as I ran and laughed and kicked the foam that the sea had left at my feet. My dog pranced and chased the foam and panted with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth. And it was magical. It was glorious. It was heavenly.

I take my life seriously. I take my responsibilities seriously. And I have seen things, experienced things, that have aged me. But sometimes I need to set those aside, just for a bit, and act like a kid. I need to forget the scars and limps that life has caused, and run like I don’t have a care in the world. For those 15 minutes, I didn’t have a care in the world. Just a beach to run on and a dog to accompany me. When it was done, my reality hadn’t changed a bit. But it felt somehow lighter. And that right there is the point. We can let life weigh us down, literally and figuratively, day after day after day. And it will unless we carve out time to run and laugh and play. We need to not take ourselves so seriously, at least for awhile.

Today I was reminded that I am but one small entity in the expansive universe. And I find that comforting. In fact that might be what is at the heart of a kid’s experience. She never forgets that she is small; she is surrounded by people who know more; she needs supervision. These are her daily realities. She’s okay with and even embraces them. She doesn’t let those things prevent her from experiencing things around her. But as she grows up, she realizes that she can control people’s perceptions by what she allows them to see. And so she chooses to let people see only parts of herself. She learns that life isn’t always fair. And so she allows resentment and bitterness to settle in, even just a little.  She dissects every word she hears looking for hidden meanings. She craves victory to prove her worth. And it is exhausting. Kids, however, have a much simpler inner dialogue. My moments of abandon help shed the layers of unwanted and unhelpful inner dialogue.

The challenge is how to run like an eight year old, or its equivalent, healthily, authentically, consistently. I have learned to lighten my grasp, to even let go at times. I saw how little I actually could control, and so I learned to accept it as much as I can. That learning creates some turmoil, because what you thought you could count on turns out to be less of a safety net and more of a safety blanket. It feels good holding onto, but it’s not going to break your fall. It is serious business when you realize what could happen, when you no longer feel protected from the periodic cruelty of life, when you begin to see the suffering that is going on all around you. I have worked on letting my guard down, to be more open and honest with what I think and feel. Perhaps these will only get me so far. Maybe what I need in taking the next step is to regularly reconnect with my eight year old self, and make peace with the 38+ years of living that have occurred between then and now.  It’s a paradox of sorts, to live with the wisdom of an old soul and the delight of a young child. And it’s going to take some time to get there because one gets in the way of the other.  But one also needs the other. Wisdom brings meaning, purpose and clarity. Childlikeness brings joy, lightness, and the ability to be fully present. There is something undeniably sweet about being a 46 year old running like an eight year old. You should give it a try.


An Easter Without a Resurrection

Easter was strange this year. The day arrived. Eggs had been decorated and baskets were filled. The sun was shining and dinner preparations had been made. Although resurrection is central to my theology, I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I saw the Facebook posts wishing folks a happy Easter and proclaiming the risen Christ. I thought I should acknowledge the day and so I stared at my screen trying to write a greeting of my own. After a few attempts, I gave up because nothing sounded right. I wished a few people happy Easter but mostly in response to having been wished one. Actually I think I said “hoppy Easter” more often because I could hardly get the word “happy” out. By mid-afternoon I concluded that I was just too tired. I spent my Easter feeling pretty empty and lethargic.

And then came Monday. I realized that it wasn’t life that had worn me out and ruined my Easter. It was Christians. It was Indiana and pizza shop owners and $840,000 and a whole lot of enthusiasm from Christians celebrating discrimination. But the discrimination didn’t stop there because there were also Christians who discriminated against the discriminating Christians. Everywhere I looked there were angry, pointing fingers, with most of them belonging to Christians. No wonder I didn’t feel much like proclaiming a resurrected Jesus because there didn’t seem to be much evidence of one.

And so I did what I always do when I feel like this. I unplug from the world as much as I can. I spend time in the sun if it’s out. I put my hands in the soil. I prepare and eat fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables. I spend time with those I love. I surround myself with life. I remind myself of what is true and real. Somehow the tactile experiences of nature, life, and love bring me back to a place of feeling centered and whole. I am reminded of what is real. And what is not. The empty rhetoric, though not gone, loosens its grip on me. I read poetry and stories that breathe life into me. I sing songs of praise and lament as a way to carry both the good and the bad. I reconnect with a faith that isn’t fueled by anger, entitlement, or selfishness. And I start to find myself again. I start to find my faith again. This year Easter came on a Monday.

Jesus was asked many questions. Whereas he often answered with confusing stories or a question in return, one question he answered with absolute clarity: What is the greatest commandment? To love God with all that you’ve got, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-31). This is important, critical, imperative – love God, love neighbor, love self. Fully. Wholly. Completely. This is not easy even with significant effort. If we are to make any progress on what Jesus calls the greatest commandment, we have got to think, breathe, live, and act in love. Sometimes love requires a tough call. However love never belittles, demeans, or diminishes.

The resurrection is meant to proclaim God’s love to and for all. Lately I have been hearing a lot more proclamations about self-preservation and entitlement than of God’s love. Maybe we have gotten so busy with our proclamations about God that we’ve forgotten to experience God. Maybe we have gotten so busy speaking for God, we have forgotten to listen to God. Maybe Easter was a reminder of how much we still need a resurrected Christ.