February 15, 2024
Janet and I once owned a dog named Metro. He was found as a puppy by my sister in a Metro-Link station in Fairview Heights. After a number of failed attempts to find his owner, and after deciding she could not keep him since she was gone from her home 14 hours-a-day, four days a week, Metro moved in with us.
Janet walked him most mornings, and I walked him almost every evening. I had two different routes for our walks. While walking one evening, Metro suddenly leaped off the sidewalk on which we were traveling. Just as he did so, I stepped on a four-foot-long tree branch that was invisible to me in the shadows of the evening. It rose up and smacked me on the shin. It just missed hitting Metro in the belly. Neither of us was hurt, so this was not really a very remarkable event. However, as I kept walking, I realized that I had stepped on that same stick two nights earlier when we walked that route. And I had stepped on it two nights before that, and two nights before that. Frankly, I could not remember how many times in a row, walking that route, I had stepped on that same stick. Was it three times, six times, ten times? Who knows. I did remember that the first time, whenever that was, it had made Metro stumble and squeal. For some reason, I had never bothered to reach down, pick up that stick, and move it out of the way.
There is a parable in that story. It has something to do with getting lost in the familiar routines of our lives. It involves not paying attention to stumbling blocks that have appeared in our path. It suggests an expectation that somebody else will fix a problem we keep running into. It concerns a failure to notice when we are repeatedly putting the companions who travel through life alongside us at risk.
During the season of Lent, people of faith are invited to re-exam our familiar routines. We are encouraged to make changes in our practices and patterns of living. We are inspired to let go of some old habits and to engage in some new ones. It is so that we do not stumble or cause others to stumble as we walk along the path to the cross.
Before I got home that night, I took Metro back to that spot on our path. I picked up that stick and moved it out of the way.
I pray that this season of Lent may help us all remove the stumbling blocks we find on our way to death and resurrection life.
Rev. Tim Darmour-Paul