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“Davey Tucker, you get off that roof right this minute! You’re gonna kill yourself!”
My father was winning the war flying Spitfires over the English Channel. So was I; but I flew over the barnyard on our farm in Minidoka County, Idaho. His enemies were the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt 109 and Focke-Wulf 190; mine were chickens and ducks. They flew too, though unfortunately for me, better than I did.
Dad told me that in the early years the Spits couldn’t go into steep dives quite as well as the ME 109’s. The negative ‘g’ forces starved the motor of fuel and the Spitfire could up and die on you real quick if you weren’t careful. We heard later that dad learned that lesson the hard way. So did I. I dislocated my shoulder launching myself off the roof of the barn that summer. I always blamed it on not having enough time to pull myself out of the dive before I hit the haymow. Dad didn’t hurt anything but his pride. After he was forced to bail out of the plane he had to walk back to the aerodrome, something pilots only do under the most dire of circumstances. Walking is generally considered beneath them.
While my father flew, I did too. I tried sheets taped to my arms and planks strapped to an apple box and launched off the baler. After we heard that dad had “lost” his Spit, I briefly limited myself to the ground, pretending that I was crawling through enemy lines to safely. But like dad said, pilots don’t walk, so I went back to flying. Besides, mom wasn’t too pleased to have me trampling the potato plants during my bolt for freedom.
In the summer of nineteen fifty-six, I learned how to run. It was no less hazardous than my flying had been, but certainly more pleasurable.
At the time, I was entering my last year at Seminary and as usual, I was running late —literally. I rounded the corner of the library on my way to a Hebrew class, and ran down the cutest little girl that I’ve ever had the satisfaction of meeting. I married her later that year. Marie claims that she caught me on the run and that I spent the next fifty years trying to get away! She invested every last one of them trotting alongside of me keeping the house, the kids, and my life in order through the fat, and the lean years, of ministry.
Marie always said that the only time that Dave Tucker wasn’t running off somewhere to do something for somebody was when he was “walking the line” for her. The year we were married Johnny Cash released a song that I’d swear to this day Marie made me repeat as part of my wedding vows. I can still hear it:
“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine, I keep my eyes wide open all the time, I keep the ends out for the ties that bind, Because you're mine, I walk the line.”*
It was no hardship watching my heart for her.
Now, in the summer of two thousand and six, I am learning how to walk. I doubt that it will be anywhere near as difficult as soaring and running were.
I stand before my congregation, the fourth that I have served over fifty years of ministry. This will be my last sermon as pastor of this church. After today, I will be just plain David Tucker, retired.
It’s time to slow down and let life catch up to me. Something tells me that while it’s going to require some adjustments, things are going to be okay.
“Please turn with me in your Bibles to Isaiah Chapter Forty, verse thirty-one. Our text for today reads this way: ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ Have you ever wondered why Isaiah, inspired by God’s Spirit, wrote: ‘soar’, ‘run’, and ‘walk’, rather than ‘walk’, ‘run’, and ‘soar’? Well, soaring is a young man’s game. When I was boy growing up in Idaho, I rather took to flying …”
I look down at Marie and smile. Yes, walking’s going to be good.
*I Walk the Line by John R. Cash. Recorded 4/2/56