Ticks on the Ruler

I am particularly prone to tripping…

I am particularly prone to tripping. Even sidewalks I’ve trekked a thousand times can catch me off-guard – especially those. I almost never fall entirely, but I am well practiced in the wide-eyed gasping stomp of balance recovery and the sheepish relief of realizing that my only my ego received a bruise.

There’s a particular adrenaline rush in tripping over those friendly sidewalks, or missing the last stair of a case you’ve climbed since you were three, or stubbing your toe on the coffee table in your childhood home. You trip on something familiar into the unknown, and in an instant, your veins flood with a biochemical cocktail of betrayal, confusion, and embarrassment. I am a well-developed, coordinated adult; how could this happen?! But with your shock-wide eyes and unsteady footing, you have the opportunity to see your new and growing self at home in its static setting; all these things are just as they were, but YOU are not.

I am so grateful for these moments.

To be surprised by the things that stay the same is to see all at once the change in yourself over the years. To rediscover that you are the dependent variable. Playground slides are shorter, as are fences, bathroom sinks, and years themselves. But these things learn no lessons. They make no choices. They were what we, the living ones, reached for, fell from, jammed our knuckles on, and managed to survive through as we grew (and continue to grow) into those “well-developed, coordinated adults.” Time slides along, silently whisking us with it as we pass the still things by, like ticks on a ruler. The gaps are the real distance traveled; the ticks just make note of the change.

And yet, some things are not shorter no matter how tall or experienced we get. Some things are immune to belittling. The oak on Azalea Street is just as tall to me as it felt when I was five. Every time I see the horizon or sit in the endless dark of a breathtaking or heartbreaking nighttime, I am reminded of the true scale of things. Even these have their beginnings and ends, before and beyond my own.

I am still on a ruler. I am not done traversing the gaps. But someday I will be. So I’m grateful for the ticks that marked my way, even when its an unexpected ridge in the sidewalk or the foot of a familiar coffee table meeting mine, because by these things I know I am not who I was when I started. By God’s grace, I am being made complete.