There’s a lady in my neighbourhood I call the crooked lady. My wife hates it when I call her that, because she thinks I’m being rude. It’s not intended that way, honestly, it’s just how I categorize her because it’s the first thing you notice. The lady is crooked. And she runs. Those two facts live together even though they do not jive. You can see the crooked lady daily, running a little hunched to one side like one leg is shorter, or there is some kind of physical impediment she’s fighting. Crooked lady is remarkably consistent. Come rain, come shine, she is dependable as the day is long, pushing through the pain in her lop-sided way. I can only conclude that crooked lady is driven by motivations I cannot fathom. She is a test case for the resilient. Whatever she’s buying, I’ll take two of those.
How do people develop such spiritual resilience in a world of chance? Life can be capricious. In the movie “The Apostle” with Robert Duval, there is a vignette where he picks up a faded childhood picture of himself with his twin, apparently deceased. Speaking from a lexicon deep inside, he echoes a verse from Ezekiel, “I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, LIVE” (Ezekiel 16:6) It’s the voice of God. The Apostle (Robert Duval in the movie) got to live and his brother did not. It infused him with a mission.
“I said unto thee when thou was in thy blood, LIVE.” I could also claim that as my own verse. I should have died at birth, but somehow miraculously survived. I was an incubator baby whose lungs collapsed, leaving me without oxygen in a small rural hospital with no facilities for such emergencies. My parents prayed for three days that I would survive. The doctor insisted for three days that I would die, but I did not. On the third day I rose again because some miraculous power let me live. It has given me pause to wonder if my life has some great purpose I have not yet honoured.
It also makes me wonder about the role of intentionality. As a baby, I of course had no sense of anything beyond basic instinct for life. The power to survive came from some other place and I was simply graced with it. Logic suggests that to relink consciously with that greater power, would help me to accomplish the purpose of my life.
I remember reading a blog where the writer complained that she thought the road to faith would require some dramatic statement that would resound through time. What she found instead was a bit of dying daily, in a million small sacrifices that seemed to peck away at her. She felt cheated. This feeling of dying daily by increments can confuse the idea of one great big purpose, yet it’s the metaphor which underwrites every Christian who goes under the water to be baptized. With every dip, you die with Christ. It’s imprinted on your life ever after.
But maybe that’s the point. Even in the small things we are here to make the world just a little better moment by moment, and the power in those small intentions raises the whole boat. Somehow even the insignificant things should link up to the higher purpose we move toward in the humble footprint of every day. Step by step, one foot in front of the other, eyes on the finish line.
Getting back to Crooked Lady and her remarkable resilience - no matter what drives her, she is a lesson for all of us. She’s not walking through life directionless, she’s running in a straight line toward her goal, crooked and wounded though she may be. Crooked lady might be an accurate picture of what greater purpose looks like.
Human beings are fixable. I am sure of it. The walking wounded run the race crooked until the day we shall be made straight again. There’s a lot of working through imperfect to be found in the Bible. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isaiah 40:4). In Hebrews this theme is echoed, “Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Hebrews 12:13).
It’s the paradox of the Bible. Strength in weakness coming from an outside source. Running that race wounded, is a picture of that anomaly: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).
How do we link up with that higher power? We are also given clues for this. Philippians 3:12 speaks of our incomplete status. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”.
And what are we to do? “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath beforehand ordained, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Big or small steps, walking or running, even wounded, the way is made out before us, looking to Christ Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.