Monday, August 24, 2015

How Walking Can Be Viewed As A Spiritual Metaphor

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7
From April Yamasaki's book, Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal:
"In Scripture, walking is often used as a metaphor for spiritual living. The Law repeatedly reminded the people to walk in God’s ways: “Therefore, keep the commandments of the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him.”  
This is echoed by the prophets: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The letters to the early church are filled with references to walking in love, walking by faith, walking in truth, walking in darkness or light — all references not to the physical act of putting one foot in front of another, but to the spiritual life of faith.  
One of the things I love about this metaphor of walking is that it’s drawn from everyday life. Walking is not like running the Boston Marathon, or swimming across the English Channel, or climbing Mount Everest, or performing some other great feat. I walk to the grocery store, I walk for fitness and to visit a friend, I walk outside to enjoy nature. Walking is something ordinary that I can do at any time.  
And yet, as Arthur Paul Boers points out, walking is also “an act of dissent; it is countercultural.” In North America, the automobile is still the preferred mode of transportation for many. In the city where I live, the installation of more bike lanes has been the cause of some controversy. Most drive to school, work, or church. Even I usually drive the three minutes from home to church instead of walking— it’s ten times faster, I have too much to carry, I need to go across town later anyway, I’m not wearing the right shoes, I have to pick up someone else, it’s raining. As a child of my culture, I always seem to have a reason to drive instead of walk, to go faster instead of slower. So for me, walking is both an ordinary, everyday activity and yet challenges me as countercultural. 
So too walking as metaphor for spiritual living. The spiritual life is something we can practice any day. I can take it one step at a time, not looking too far back or too far forward, focusing on the present moment. I can slow down. I can become quiet before God. I can pray. I can read Scripture.  
Just like walking down my street, these are ordinary things that I can do without any special training or skill. And yet they also go against the grain of my culture that tells me to do more and do it faster, a culture that values speaking up instead of being quiet, that sees prayer as unnecessary and Scripture as out of date. As a countercultural activity, walking is an apt metaphor for living a life of faith."
Yamasaki, April (2013-02-01). Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal (Kindle Locations 866-890). Herald Press. Kindle Edition.

(HT: @CSCleve for the recommendation of the book.)

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