Walk This Way

Tuesday morning I read a tweet from someone I don’t remember who, about people making fun of the way she walked, and I thought, “Well, that’s my life. Every day.” And then I forgot about it. Until later, during the night, when my brain camped out on that thought. Finally, at 3:30 AM, I got out of bed, dug out some 3x5 cards, and wrote it down. I knew the only way I’d get back to sleep that night was to write it all down right then.

What wouldn’t let me sleep was the idea that how we walk says so much about us. You can infer a person’s outlook on life by the way they walk. You can judge their degree of self-discipline, their confidence, even their sense of mindfulness. You may decide not to engage with someone merely because the way they walk marks them as a whiner.

I crawled out of bed early Wednesday morning with this verse on my mind: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” (Colossians 2:6) In this case, our walk, or better said, our pattern of living, reveal our commitment to Jesus.

People don’t actually make fun of the way I walk, but they always ask about it. As in, “Are you OK? You seem to be limping.”

It’s because I have arthritis in both knees, just like my mom did. In the past three or four years it has begun to degrade my forward motion.

The problem with a condition like arthritis is I don’t have a great story to go along with it like I would if I had a catastrophic injury. As in, I was defending my granddaughters from a wolverine by lunging at his neck with my really cool bone-handled KA-BAR Iron Men pocket knife, and as I fell off the wood pile where we’d taken refuge I injured both knees, leaving me with a permanent limp that I don’t mind since all I have to do is look at photos of Madden and Landry and know it was worth it.

Not only would that be an epic story about my knees, but also about living up to my knife, a KA-BAR (Hardcore Lives, Hardcore Knives).

But I don’t have a story like that.

My story is more like this: I used to be a slow runner and now I am an extremely slow runner, often slower than 16:00 pace. They say, “Didn’t I see you out powerwalking yesterday?”

Most people assume I finally wore my knees out after 36,844 miles of running. It only makes intuitive sense.

But it doesn’t make scientific sense. The research overwhelmingly says running doesn’t encourage the onset of arthritis, but rather continual use tends to prolong the function of joints. With knees, like your heart, it’s “use ‘em or lose ‘em.”

In fact, just last weekend I heard an NPR Science Friday interview with two researchers (Greg Whyte and Tamara Hew-Butler), who said linear exercise (running, walking, cycling) extends the working life of joints and doesn’t wear them out.

Still, I limp, even during linear use. It reminds me of a quote by ultra-marathoner, Dean Karnezes, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you DSC06778must; just never give up.”

Thinking about walking all night when I should have been sleeping gave me another verse: “Therefore, my dear friends, … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12)

Except that I want the Bible to say “WALK out your salvation,” instead of “WORK out,” since how I walk is evident to everyone, more than how I work. I want my salvation story to be obvious to all observers even on those days I think I am doing a better job of hiding it.

Don’t misunderstand my intent when I write about bum knees. I am grateful for knees that work at all, and for every mile they take me.

George Sheehan once asked, "Have you ever felt worse after a run?" And the answer for me, since 1978, is, no. I am always glad I went.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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