There is a brand of tennis shoes on the market called New Balance. I know because I bought my first pair over 16 years ago during my divorce. I didn’t realize that my relationship with a new pair of shoes would usher me into the most transforming relationship I have ever known. That purchase was prophetic and was the beginning of not just a literal new walk but a spiritual one as well.
I had never been one to work out or exercise. However, the external storm of experiencing a stroke at the age of 36 and life after divorce was colliding with the internal storm of failure, defeat, helplessness, and hopelessness—and in essence, creating the perfect storm. I was experiencing so many things that I had little to no control over, but I knew that some things had to change. Bit by bit, I started to take control of the things I could control, and the first was my health. I was overwhelmed with where to start, so I started with the most straightforward and accessible.
Every morning I would wash my face and put on those tennis shoes. I would step out into my neighborhood while the world slept and walked. At first, it felt so strange. I wasn’t sure what this looked like or what to do, so I just walked. I started slow and would take brief walks throughout the neighborhood, return home, and start the busy day of getting the kids and myself to school and work. I continued this pattern each day. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Eventually, I recognized the benefits as I lost the weight- physically, emotionally, and mentally. There was a clarity that evolved that I had never experienced. I was experiencing a “new balance“ and it felt right….. good….. and necessary. And while most of my walks took place in the early morning, I was never scared. I never “felt” alone. There was a peace there that I couldn’t explain (though science explains what happens in our brains when we exercise), and I wanted to be in that place all the time. In those morning walks, I pondered, processed, and problem solved. At the end of my walks each morning, I would often wonder how I could bottle this peace and carry it with me all day long.
A Really New Balance
The next few years found the external storms of life pressing in hard. No one, especially me, could fix what was happening in the fallout after the divorce. I was hitting it at every angle, and NOTHING was changing (or so it appeared). I had remarried, and my husband kept telling me to get out of the way. I would lash out in anger as I didn’t know what that meant. What did I need to get out of the way of exactly? He would simply reply, “the Lord .” I would shake my head and tell him that he lived in the clouds. He would smile and accept my viewpoint. What appeared to be foolishness and naivety from where I was standing was that “bottled up peace” that I so desperately longed for and experienced through physical exertion so many years before. I didn’t know how to get it, but I knew I wanted it, needed it, and had to have it. I was at a dire point in life, and I had to figure it out to sustain my life.
Me, myself, and I
The reverberating theme above is all the “I” statements.
I had to…
I needed to…
Well, and honestly, ya’ll, I couldn’t. I had pulled on every string I could find except the one on the hem of His garment.
And when I finally did, it felt like the whole thing came unraveled. What the heck? I thought salvation equated to and would lead to all things perfect, homeostasis, all things right in the world, a balance, if you will. It looked and felt anything but that.
But I kept pulling. I kept putting on the “new shoes.” It felt like when I put on the literal “new shoes” to walk so many years before- strange and unfamiliar- but I kept walking. I would press in and pull out, press in and pull out. I would pick it up and then hand it back. A pattern and a rhythm were being created with the Lord that would eventually become unconscious, automatic, and homeostatic. This pattern/rhythm evoked spiritual regulation- a balance- a “bottled-up peace” that surpasses understanding.
Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message is an invitation to experience a “new balance” and rhythm that regulates with the Lord:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The first walk I took in those New Balance tennis shoes was with the Lord. I didn’t know it at the time. He was always there, bringing me into balance, regulating me, and making things well with my soul. And I didn’t realize it until I accepted His invitation.
The best way to describe our Empowerment Program is grace-based. When I visualize the Empowerment Program, I see the scripture above. Our residents are tired and worn out from life. They are looking for a place to rest, and we provide that through the form of housing. We set up an environment that is warm, safe, and loving. We put processes and procedures in place that lead to physical safety and emotional, mental, and spiritual safety. We invite them to the rest of it. As He invites us, we invite them to put on the “new shoes” because “new shoes” create a new balance, and there’s nothing quite like the new balance found with the Lord. The new balance is for everyone. You have to say YES and then get out of the way!