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.