The Coyote Get Up
I do CrossFit. That sentence is probably horribly grammatically incorrect, but I don’t care. I tell ya, grammar-correctors wear me slap out. One of the movements or exercises we did this week was something called a Turkish Get Up – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_zTytmHM94. The young buck in this video is handling a dumbell, but its often performed with a kettlebell, some beasts even use a barbell. Regardless, its hard. You’re coming off the ground, keeping this weight straight above your head and your eyes focused on it throughout the entire movement up, then reverse everything back down. It requires strength, balance, endurance, agility, and I’ve discovered an occasional help me, Lord. I’ve heard its something boxers use in their training, as they’re often having to get up off the ring floor with a gloved fist raised to protect themselves. Makes sense.
This past Monday, Eugene Peterson died. You may or may not know that name. He was a pastor and author, probably best known for his translation of the Bible into contemporary language – The Message. Some people love, like really love that translation. Others ridicule it, calling it a paraphrase at best, and incorrect in many places at worst. God-correctors wear me out too. But in the wake of the news of his death, each day has felt like an extended Turkish Get Up, having to stand up and move among the living while keeping this weight of grief lofted overhead. I told a friend earlier in the week, “It’s like almost all the lions are gone now – Eugene Peterson, Brennan Manning, Phyllis Tickle, Dallas Willard, Brian Doyle, and of course Jim Harrison…” No, not all of them are gone, these roaring characters who influenced so much of how I think about God and life and the world. Annie Dillard’s still living, as is Robert Benson, as are my dear mother and father…thank God.
I read two or three other voices who felt this thinning of the pride. Their response was a variation on a theme of “Who will rise up now and take this lion’s place?” Rise up? Lord that sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? I believe such talk would tickle Tickle, and cause Peterson to flash that signature mouthful of white Chiclets. I even had one person tell me they saw me, yes me, in that tradition of writers and thinkers and poets – that I could take up the baton, and roar. I thanked them for the compliment, it was given from a good heart, really it was. But I am not a lion.
My mediocre self-awareness tells me I’m more coyote – a rangy survivor, skittish of adolescent minds with guns, definitely a nuisance to some, but also, in a strange way, a necessary part of the landscape if you’ve eyes to see. And also ears to hear, for I pray on better days my words resemble a song, or a yip. I’ve seen a handful of coyotes in my life, and I never witnessed one “rise up.” No, they get up. One I saw ratcheted himself up for he only had 3 legs, old number 4 possibly caught in a trap and he gnawed it off himself in order to hobble free. I’ve read of such realitites, for coyotes do what they have to do in order to survive.
So as the lions fade, I’m practicing the Coyote Get up. Its hard, but most things worth anything in this harsh and lovely world are hard. I am daily aware of the focus and strength required…and that help me, Lord.
Peterson is a hero of sorts to me. It may have been from him a couple of decades ago that I learned that the Sabbath commandment is the most frequntly mentioned of the big Ten in all of scripture. It has been an abiding concern of mine for a long time, and severely distressing a few times, as well. It has also been a source of reward, too, I believe.
A short piece that I’ve written, five pages, not particularly academic or scholarly, but hopefully moderately (or more ; – ) compelling… you may want to read the little epilogue on the last page first:
I’m not sure why the tears are leaking after reading this…But maybe it’s because I’ve been unwittingly doing the “get up”, and I’m weary. Thank you, PB. You put the words just right.
Always a song…thank you.
Hmmm This post gives me pause John. I, for one, would include you in the lion group. Not because we hear you loudly audibly, but if I’m willing to be quiet and listen, your words loudly, profoundly proclaim the greatest of our God and our mission to love. And I do feel a slight grin creeping across my face when you place Brennan in the lion group. Oh yeah, he could scream out the unconditional love of God for each of us, but in daily life, he would be the epitome of one described in Kavanaugh’s book, “ There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves”.
God knew what He was doing when He put you two together.
LOVE LOVE LOVE (and amen!)
I’m with you, John. Peterson was such a breath of fresh air in the world of theology and church culture. After I read “Eat This Book”…my view of scripture and how I process it was forever changed. Keep it comin’ Mr Coyote…I’m a follower!
Most of us, probably, are coyotes. What sets you apart from the pack, however, is your word-candor that occasionally leave your readers gut-punched, inspired to STRIVE harder to BE lustrous Life-givers. Thank you.
Oh that was good.
Coyote up my friend
We need coyotes, John. Oh, yeah, we do. I never met Pastor Peterson, but he was a friend of many years, an encourager, a truth-teller, a relief on so many levels. AND SO ARE YOU, whether or not you recognize that truth about yourself or not. So, yes, coyote up, my friend. Coyote up. (I’ve seen LOADS of those critters – once a pack of four on my front lawn at midday. They’re a bit mangy, but quite good at what they do. And man, can they sing? Yeah, it’s strange music, but it is real.)
Well, you used the phrase “weight of grief” which I’d looked up months ago after my husband died in August 2017. This is what I found while searching the common cliche that seems so full of meaning to me. This sculpture captured visually, for me, an essential part of grief – the “weight” of it: https://reneeroedererdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/weight-of-grief.jpg
I love the sound of coyotes. I would NEVER consider myself a lioness, but would be humbly honored to think that I maybe could be a coyote.
Please continue to share your thoughts. Thank you.
John, you are one of the voices that have helped this old grandmother release God from the narrow box of fear that was the product of my youth.
Thank you John. I have enjoyed reading your comments here and on Twitter about Eugene Peterson. Reading The Message and reading his books has enriched my life. I feel grieved with his passing, and you have soothed my heart with your words as I have “grieved with you“ over the loss of our friend. I have never met Eugene, but have studied with him from afar. What a contribution to our lives and the lives of many he has made! Thank you for him, Lord!
And thank you, Lord, for John as well! One of my other friends who I don’t know personally, who enriches my life all the time with his words!
As kind of a curve ball or an infinite parallel line to your line ‘most things worth anything in this harsh and lovely world are hard’, I heard Spinoza’s line, ‘All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare’ echo in my mind. Hiking today out by the real coyotes I am, might even see one. Thanks, John.
Maybe some coyotes are just lions waiting to happen. Just sayin’ . . .
I used to live way out in the country. There were some other people out there, but they were all there for the same reason. They wanted peace and quiet and simplicity. We waved to each other, but we didn’t spend time with each other much. It was nice most of the time, but then there were times when life was just incredibly lonely out there. From time to time, we would hear the coyotes howl. You would here just one for a little while and then the others would start to answer. Hearing one coyote howl can be a sad experience – that “I’m all alone – where are you?” sound can call up through your bones some serious feelings of isolation or abandonment. I almost wanted to say to that lone coyote, “so you feel it, too, huh?” But then the answering yips, barks, and howls of that coyote family would start, and I felt reassured, at least for the coyote. God and I would have to wrestle a bit more about whether I thought I could hear any answer when I was howling. Maybe I just thought it took too long to get a response. I seem to do better when I’m part of the family response. So, John, as long as you’ll go first, I will try to chime back in.
Whatever you are
you have been becoming it
– – –
“It’s like almost all the lions are gone now…” I felt the same way about Henrietta Mears after so many people she influenced died. I wondered, Who will influence and inspire the next generation of leaders? I saw then, maybe for the first time, what was important to me.
I’ve been waiting to comment here until we tried these in our WOD. And this Good Friday I remembered your words here as I watched the moon set over the mountains and ended up turning in my Kettlebell for a much lighter burden. Thinking of this piece helped as I struggled with the weight assigned to me. Thank you.
Katherine, sorry to just now reply to this. Life’s been, well, busy. I’m glad you tried the Turkish getups…I actually love them now and try to incorporate them once a week. Go figure. ~ John