WATCH YOUR STEP
It happened again! For the second time in the last 5 years I’ve discovered how to break a foot without really trying. I admit I’m discouraged by my latest misfortune, and somewhat perplexed by how I ended up in this situation again. I don’t even have a good story to share when people ask me how I got hurt. I can only shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t really know…..it just happened……… AGAIN!”
It was just over 5 years ago in August that I first experienced this anomaly of physics. I was at a large conference in a nicely carpeted auditorium. At a break in the events I decided to walk back to the coffee station located just a few feet away from my seat. On about the third step I heard and felt a “pop” in my left foot. It stopped me in my tracks for a second, but I figured I had just stepped wrong and cracked a joint, like you might do when crack the knuckles on your hand. I got my coffee and sat down somewhat ignoring what had happened. I didn’t figure it was any big deal! Unfortunately no one seemed to let my foot in on that fact!
As I sat through the rest of the conference that day my foot began to throb. By the time I left to go back to my hotel I knew I had hurt it, but tried to sluff it off as just an annoyance. I drove home the next day and tried to work, but by now my foot was introducing itself to any thought I had of concentrating on something else. When it became impossible to focus any longer I finally relented to my foot’s invitation to visit my doctor. As it turned out the pop I had heard at the conference was the breaking of two bones on the outside of my foot. Of all the dumb ways to break a foot, I had done so just walking 10’ on a deeply carpeted floor. There was no great sports injury, nor a fight with a Ninja warrior, or some masculine task I had attempted to do around the house. I broke my foot “walking”. My reward was the privilege of wearing a huge black boot on my foot for the next 6 months. That season of my life included numerous trips flying around the country, the entire football schedule at the University of Oregon where I have season tickets, plus Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years that year. To be honest, I didn’t feel blessed by my experience in the boot!
Now fast forward to a few days before Holy Week this year (2021). Since most of the Holy Week activities at the church where I serve were cancelled in 2020 because of COVID, our entire staff put a lot of time and preparation into what we wanted to do for Good Friday and Easter weekend this year. I had personally written a full script and coordinated the music, video, and volunteers needed for a beautiful Good Friday service. Plans were made for our three worship services, a reception after each service, and about 20 baptisms on Easter Sunday. A special video was made for our entire community to view on Saturday focused on the darkness of doubt that dominated the day after Christ’s crucifixion. We were planning great weekend all around for our church family.
Unfortunately somewhere during that week my foot decided it needed to take a vacation. It wasn’t the foot that broke before…….that would be too easy to explain! It was my other foot that had begun to hurt! I didn’t hear a pop, I didn’t take a fall, I hadn’t played any sports, or tried to do something crazy. As far as I know I hadn’t done anything to injure myself in any way. But my foot just didn’t care! I tried to ignore it, but by Monday it was obvious that something was wrong. A trip to the doctor on Monday morning confirmed my worst fears. I had done it agai – I had broken a foot doing nothing more exciting than walking around the church! Are you kidding me?
For the past month I have had the joyful experience of walking with a black anchor around my right leg. I know they call it a “walking boot”, but let’s be honest — they should call it an “annoyance boot”. Strapping it on can be a challenge itself, let alone trying to drive with the boot on my driving foot! In fact, getting into and out of the car can be an ordeal in and of itself. My poor dog is wondering why I’ve slowed down so much on our nightly walks, and my arthritic knees didn’t need anything else to cope with after surviving 5 ACL surgeries. And since the weather has turned warm, the fashion statement I’m making wearing shorts with one tennis shoe and one boot is truly a sight to be seen. I’m hopeful my journey in this black anchor around my foot will be much shorter than my last go round, but my past experience still seems pretty fresh in my memory. I know I sound like I’m complaining…..and you’re right……..but actually I’m just confused. How could I break my foot on two separate occasions by basically doing nothing? Maybe God was just trying to get my attention.
I have to admit, having a broken foot and learning to walk in one of these clumsy boots has gotten my attention in a number of ways. Since I don’t sleep with the boot on, when I get up in the morning I have to be careful not to just go running around the house like nothing is wrong. It would be tempting to do so since most of the pain has subsided, but my Podiatrist was adamant that I avoid that temptation. Later, when I strap my boot on each morning, I am forced to realize my limitations. While I can drive to work, sit down in front of my computer, and visit with those who need me, I don’t have the same freedom to move about my day unhindered. I make conscious choices throughout the day to limit where I walk and try to accomplish more than one thing with each trip. Life has become a negotiation between what I’d like to do and what I can do. I have to think about the choices I make with almost every step. There’s something in that reality that speaks to me.
Proverbs 4:26-27 says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
If I interpret that correctly it seems to be saying “WATCH YOUR STEP!” I’ve seen those signs all over the place – in restaurants, shopping malls, construction sites, etc…. I’ve even seen signs in London that say “Mind the Gap” as you step off The Tube. The thought is the same – PAY ATTENTION! So much of our lives move at a pace that make it hard to slow down and do just that. A wrong step here or there can lead to physical, emotional, or even spiritual injuries. We make the wrong choice, say the wrong thing, move in the wrong direction, and before you know it we have to deal with consequences we may not like. Granted, some of those things can’t be avoided, they are just part of life, like my most recent foot injury. But there have been many other times in my life when I should’ve/could’ve/would’ve given more careful thought to my next steps!
The lesson in all this for me is something a bit deeper than the hassle of wearing a clumsy black boot. I think this injury is reminding me once again of the importance of “watching my step” in every area of my life. I want to give “careful thought” to the choices I make, the things I do, and the relationships I have. I believe there is a correct path to follow, and if I follow that path the destination is always worth the journey. That’s quite the lesson for one little broken foot!
I have a feeling I’m not alone in having to re-learn that lesson every once in a while. It’s so easy to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of the here and now that we sometimes forget to “watch our step”, especially when it comes to making decisions about the things that impact our relationship with the ONE who created us. I want to keep my spiritual feet out of the black boot of correction. But I’m coming to accept that sometimes God has to put me back in that boot…….just like my Podiatrist…….for my own good! It may hobble and humble me for a while as God gets me back on the right track, but in the end it is my hope that it will help me walk straight and be the kind of man He’s called me to be. Here’s to taking that next right step…with or without the boot!