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Keep Walking

I want to show you my new tattoo.

Like the words scrawled across my chest, this one splashed down my left arm is all red and black and full of hope. But in order to tell you about this tattoo, I need to tell you a story.


It was December, the month that would never end.

Christmas had come and gone, and somehow the Christmas miracle I was so desperately begging for had passed me by. Filled with anxiety and sadness and the Minnesota cold that weaves itself into your very bones, I pulled on my heavy boots and stumbled down to the frozen Mississippi to look for God.

He shows up there sometimes, at the river.


I walked two miles, there and back. Begging, pleading, praying, crying, swearing. Anything to get God’s attention, anything to hear just a whisper. Nothing.

Finally, trudging the last block back to my front door, I heard the simplest question in my heart:

“Do you want to be healed?”

God, you know I do.

“Then keep walking.”

That was all.


I’m not the first person who’s heard this.

When God had skin, he was always telling people to take up their bed and walk if they wanted to be healed. On the sidewalk in front of my house, with those words ringing in my heart, I realize that I’m one of a long line who have been invited to the hard road of healing.

I don’t know what comes next, but I know how to put one heavy boot in front of the other across the dirty snow.

I can keep walking.


Hope is relentless.

But so is pain, and I need to be reminded. It’s January now, and I’m texting my friend Seth:

“…some days I wonder if there’s any hope left for my own brokenness.”

I’ve not told him about the Spirit’s whisper to me in December, but somehow he says the same words to me again:

“There’s hope. You have to walk into health and wholeness. Keep walking.”

How did you know?


Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.43.31 AM[ buy the shirt for $15 ]

It’s a Saturday night in the dead of winter, and I’m sitting in the worn armchair with my back to the dark night sky, furiously writing words of hope in my journal. The candle next to me is burned all the way down, from day after day of beating back the darkness.

I’m begging God to show me that he loves me.

In that moment, I hear the quiet ding of a new email hitting my inbox. And I read these words from a stranger:

“I just wanted to encourage you that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. I appreciate your words, because they put in black and white what I was never able to verbalize.

I know what was at the end of my tunnel – and it was a God who cares deeply for the redemption of the individual and all humanity.

But I don’t know what’s at the end of your tunnel.

Just keep walking.”

Turning the page, I scrawled her words into my journal, followed by a few words of my own.
I see you, God. I see you seeing me. And I will keep walking, if you will give me the faith and the strength to take one more step.



The words find me again and again.

I don’t know how to be healed.

Keep walking.

I don’t know how to save the ones I love.

Keep walking.

I don’t know what to do next.

Keep walking.



In April, I knew it was time to put it on my skin.

Now, in those moments when I can’t hear the Spirit’s whisper, I glance down and there it is in black and red, forever part of my body.

And when my friends get tired of my endless complaining and questions, they say to me:

Bro. Just read the words on your arm.



It’s Easter weekend.

Last year I died on Easter. (I’ll tell you that story someday.)

And on Good Friday this year I stumble completely accidentally across some words I’d written on that same day a year ago:

“Some days you’ll think that walking by faith was a terrible mistake. Keep walking.”

Sometimes you write your own foreshadowing without ever realizing it. And sometimes it finds its way back to you a year later, when you least expect it.

When you need it most.


Now it’s a sunny Sunday in May, and I’m tired. The words of Psalm 77 are echoing in my head:

I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
    Oh, that God would listen to me!
When I was in deep trouble,
    I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
    but my soul was not comforted.
I think of God, and I moan,
    overwhelmed with longing for his help.

I think of all the unanswered prayers I’ve screamed and scrawled and wrung from my heart this year, and how the God I believe in more than ever has somehow never quite given me the answers I hoped for.

Like most Psalms, this one has a happy ending in the form of a history lesson. I’m not interested. I know the old Bible stories. I’ve read the book, seen the movie. I barely believe them anymore.

But later on, in church, I find a Bible and open it to to read the end of that Psalm again.

Your road led through the sea,
    your pathway through the mighty waters—
    a pathway no one knew was there!

I’ve known the mighty waters, of loss and chaos and grief. But now there is a path. And where there is a path, I can keep walking. Tears are streaming down my face as a prayer forms on my lips…

“But God. I don’t know how to keep walking anymore. Will you help me?”

And in an instant I feel the unmistakeable whisper of the Spirit in my heart:

“Of course. I thought you’d never ask.”

I am destroyed by the kindness in the voice that only I can hear.

Then I hear the familiar chords of the song that has carried me all through this unbearable year:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail…

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

My shoulders are shaking with heavy sobs and tears are pouring down my cheeks as I feel the warm light of love filling my chest, healing the empty space inside my ribcage.

Of course. A pathway through the sea. A path upon the waters.

If I will just keep walking.


“Do you want to be healed?”

God, you know I do.

“Then keep walking.”

And now, when I forget, all I have to do is glance down at my arm.

arm-final[ ink by ray jimenez ]

published June 2, 2015

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