The path of discipleship is about three things: Reaching Up (to God). Reaching In (personal spiritual growth). Reaching Out (to others in Christ’s love). The more we know the context of our faith (how is that Bible reading going?), the more open we are to the presence and moving of the Spirit, the more readily we live out our call as Christ’s followers.
So there are times when we can be more intentional in what we do, seeking to open ourselves to God, to listen, to wonder, to see. Sometimes a walk is just a walk. And sometimes a walk is a spiritual exercise.
There is so much noise around us, some of it pleasant, some not. We can even become anxious about silence, feeling uncomfortable in it. Christian discipleship is about “telling the good news”, whether in word or deed, and we can get so caught up in the “telling” that we forget how to do the listening.
Barbara Brown Taylor puts it this way: “Sometimes I think we do all the talking because we are afraid God won’t. Or, conversely, that God will. Either way, staying preoccupied with our own words seems a safer bet than opening ourselves up either to God’s silence or God’s speech, both of which have the power to undo us.” (When God is Silent, Cambridge, 1998. p.51).
Walking, running, or any sort of movement where we can be silent and disengage the world for awhile (so, not driving or on a bicycle), can be a time of waiting on God, opening up to God, listening to God. You might simply focus on the things around you, the light, the air, the animals; feel your heart beat, your body move, or pay attention to your breath; you might think about things that are concerning you or you are wondering about; you might whisper prayers or concerns; you might simply quiet your mind and let thoughts come and go as they will. It ought to be a time of quiet, of intentionally opening up to and/or waiting on God. As you begin, consciously leave behind the place you began, be present in each moment, and as you near the end of the walk (or other movement), slowly move back into your day.
We are physical creatures and our bodies are part of our spiritual experience. Jesus was the face of God, embodied, because that is the way we live in this world. Your body, its movement and feelings, are a means of God’s presence and of experiencing God’s grace.
Take a walk. Reach up. Reach in. Reach out.