A few weeks ago one of my friends made a comment about how I was walking ahead of and out of sync with everyone else, including my husband Bob, who is very tall. I am not tall. I told her I used to get in trouble when I was a kid because my mom said it was rude for me to walk ahead of everyone else, and it’s funny because Bob’s legs are so much longer than mine. “I walk long for a short person!” I said.
Then I added, “That would make a good title for my autobiography.” I’m always more or less planning this autobiography, as if I were a famous person preparing ahead of time to document their own life, out of consideration for other biographers. “Wouldn’t it be great if people in the old days had written with us in mind?” I asked one of my old journals. Long have I labored under delusions of future grandeur.
But the phrase has stuck with me for some reason, and I have been pondering how that simple phrase, uttered in a moment of playfulness, may say more about a lot of us than we realize. To Walk Long for a Short Person—it implies an aberration, a variation from an expected deduction from a theme, but in an unexpectedly positive way. A short person should walk short—their stride limited by the length of their legs. I, however, walk surprisingly long—my stride covers more ground faster than one would expect from a person with far-from-super-model legs. My aberration is good.
What I want to say is that our God is good and has built unexpected strengths into those of His children who would otherwise be sadly inadequate, who would be otherwise pitifully unable to cope with the tiring onslaught of life in this broken world. Earlier this year my pastor’s wife, Tricia, gave me an unusual prophetic word, essentially “God thinks you’re Amy Winehouse.” Amy Winehouse, of course, was the year’s Grammy Award It Girl, a talented but troubled singer who had to get leave from a rehab center to perform her award-winning Song of the Year “Rehab” at the Grammys via satellite link (chorus: “They wanna make me go to rehab, but I said no, no, no.”) Amy’s unstable life, talent, and surprising award were a big joke around the church office where I work. I knew God had a sense of humor, too, though, because what Tricia meant toward me was, there’s this poor girl, jacked up on drugs and hardly able to stand at her own moment of glory, yet she still gave a solid performance and won one of most prestigious awards in the world. She walked long for a short person that spring. What Tricia was saying to me was, that despite all the difficulties in my life, all the struggles and disappointments, I was still there. I hadn’t crashed and burned into oblivion.
In the months since then, I have seen how I am not alone in my struggles. People all around me are struggling hard, not just with small inconveniences in life, but with the big ones: chronic debilitating disease, decimating divorces, shattered families, the devastation of their hopes and dreams. Yet these people go on—not only living, surviving, but hoping, praying, worshipping, and giving to others in such a way that most of the people they give to are not even aware that the cost of the gifts are secret tears and pain carried in loneliness.
That there are so many of us carrying the pain alone and shedding tears in secret is topic enough for its own consideration. But the fact that these people have not given up, cursed God, or turned their backs on the church—the fact that they press on, in all their small humanity, and retain hope and love….
That is an abnormality from an expected outcome—a result inconsistent with the apparent resources—that is far superior to what one would naturally expect. Deviations in nature usually result in birth defects or a broken version of the ideal image, not improvements. I don’t think it requires a great deal of theology to explain why a short-limbed girl should outstride a tall man; I am content to call it a gracious and pleasant mystery. That is also what I call the reason some people shine when they should shatter.
I call it the gift of a good Father. It is a stride you wouldn’t expect from short legs.