Well, I have two days and 39 miles behind me. Today I got my first blisters, and my feet are telling me this whole thing is not a good idea. I haven’t told them yet that they are in for 20 more miles tomorrow! I feel blessed by Jesus in so many ways. It’s been 108 for the past two weeks in the valley I’ve started in, but on my first day, it was totally overcast and lightly sprinkling almost the whole walk. Today was sunny but with a light breeze all day. Yes, by the end of my walk each day it was about 100 degrees, but I’m under no illusion that this will come off without suffering. Nor do I want it to. The most powerful statements don’t come without a price.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no great person – not any greater than you or the next person. I’m just who God made me, with gifts, purposes, and a deep need to be known by my Creator and cared for by my Creator. I am at peace in the knowledge that God DOES care for me – in fact, he cares deeply. I can’t DO anything to make him like me or love me more. Even in my worst state, his compassion for me is boundless. And as I walk (so to speak) in faith that he has me right where I am, in the state that I am in, because he wants to use me in that place, I feel this wave of joy and freedom that I don’t have to perform for him. I am unique in this world because God made it so, and by simply submitting to him, his grace, and his love, I WILL live out this life and fulfill the purposes for which I was made.
When God opened my eyes to the Paiute of the Owens Valley (known as the Nu-Mu), and when their story and struggle hit me between the eyes, I asked God what he wanted “me” to do about it. I already realized I couldn’t do what someone else thought I should do, even though many told me what I ought to do. I figured, “If God is putting this on my heart, there must be something I have to offer that is unique to who God made me to be.” It took time, but God began to reveal things to me, and I began to focus into those things. The essence of this is to simply be their friend and their neighbor, and second to help others begin to do the same (like, for example, you!).
How does this play out? Well, in many ways; but right now, it plays out in this walk. What can I, David Fairley, do? Well, I can walk! I direct an outdoor adventure program, after all. God moved my heart that in the 150 years since the Nu-Mu’s forced march, the effects of that march are still very much a current day reality. I don’t want that for my friends. Here is the thing: Creator God cares for them just as much as he cares for me. He made them who they are, with the gifts that they have, and has even now molded them with the uniqueness of their plight. We have been trying for hundreds of years to take the Indian out of the Indian. When will we realize that we are trying to destroy what God has uniquely fashioned? Of course they too need Creator’s love and grace to change and transform them; something tells me most of them would agree. But what I want them to know is what I personally know: “Creator loves you. You are special, you are unique. You are Indian because GOD made you Indian. And he cares about you deeply, and he has unique purposes for you – not only as an Indian, but as the individual that you are. And if God sees you this way, than gosh darn it, so do I! You don’t have to DO anything, or change anything, for me to care about you. I’m not going to try to change you – that’s God’s job. I’m just going to love you, with the uniqueness of who I am. And my hope is that you will love me with the uniqueness of who you are.”
This walk is not an apology for what happened 150 years ago. Don’t get me wrong – I feel absolutely sick that it happened. But I can’t apologize for people that died more than a hundred years ago. I CAN, however, communicate that I am sorry for not realizing all this sooner myself, and – more importantly – communicate to God and to the Nu-Mu that I am walking in a different direction. I can tell them that though I can’t change the past, I can do something about the future. I don’t have to do this walk to tell them this – I already have several Paiute friends who believe my heart is sincere. But the pain and struggles of the past – and present – are powerful in many of their hearts, and so the healing that they need is a powerfully deep healing. Many of them are more or less content with their lives, but this contentment comes at the price of believing that things are what they are and will never change. Maybe I’m young and naïve at 45, but that just doesn’t work for me. No, it doesn’t. I’m going to walk 200+ miles. I’m going to try to tell them with my blistering feet that I don’t just care about them, I REALLY care about them. If my walk can inspire other people to REALLY care for the Nu-Mu in the uniqueness of who they are, maybe. . .maybe. . .many of the Nu-Mu that struggle with hopelessness will begin to hope. Hope is powerful. To bring about a powerful healing, you need a powerful medicine. My Bible tells me there are three ingredients that are the answer to any impossible situation: faith, hope, and love. My faith in God is leading me to love the Nu-Mu so that they can find the hope that will bring about the impossible. Watch out world, the Indian will rise again! And we will ALL be better for it.