Keep Walking

I find myself humming it all the time, whether I want to or not. “Keep walking…but you won’t knock down our wall! Keep walking…but she isn’t going to fall! It’s plain to see, your brains are very small, to think walking…will go knocking down our wall!”

God bless the creators of Veggie Tales, they really found a way to winsomely introduce young children to the historical truths of the Bible…and those catchy little tunes often find their way into my head, too. Little green peas singing with a French accent – and an attitude – they absolutely drive me nuts. But I have to admit that they also have a point; we all just need to keep walking.

I’ve been reading and studying the book of Ephesians lately, in preparation for attending the CCEF marriage conference this weekend, which has chosen as its theme the letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus. While I’m trying to stay focused on the larger themes expressed, one little word keeps coming to my attention. I have to think that the frequency of its use – over and over again – can’t be unintentional.

The word is walk. Look at how often it appears in this letter:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath. (2:1-3)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ( 2:10)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4:1-3)

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (4:17)

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ( 5:2)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ( 5:15-16)

Time and time again, Paul uses this ordinary word to exhort the Ephesians. In his letters to Timothy, Paul talks about himself having fought the good fight of faith (2 Timothy 4:7-8), and he exhorts Timothy to do the same (1 Timothy 6:12). In other writings, he likens the life of faith to a race run for a prize (1 Corinthians 10:17, Philippians 3:13-14). These are much more exciting analogies. Walking is so…well, boring. So slow. So methodical, steadfast…and doable by just about anyone; you needn’t be any sort of “spiritual rock star” to simply walk in faith.

There are a few things about this idea of walking as tied to my life of faith that I wanted to share, hopefully as an encouragement in your own walk of faith.

The walk of faith takes great patience. For me, the call to walk in many of the verses above is similar to the process of sanctification in my life. Throughout most of history, in order to get somewhere, you most often walked. In other words, walking was a journey. And while the grace of God justifies us in an instant, His ongoing mercy sanctifies us from that moment until the day we die. It, too, is a journey that we begin the moment God claims us as His own.

And let’s face it, this journey of sanctification is often unnervingly slow. There have been many, many times when I’ve struggled repeatedly with the same sin in my own life – expressed in the same situations, with the same people – and the process of rooting out that sin is oftentimes so incrementally slow as to be deeply discouraging. I’ve often felt that I’m not getting anywhere in my battle, for instance, with pride. But, like a long, arduous journey, all one has to do is turn around and look back at the miles that have been covered to be reassured that this walk is, indeed, taking you somewhere. You are covering ground; you are making progress. So walking takes patience. Certainly, sanctification over the course of a lifetime requires a great deal of patience.

The walk of faith requires community. I used to be a runner. I was never very fast, but the point for me was never about speed. It was about getting and staying in shape. I had a couple of friends that I ran with sometimes, but for the most part, I ran alone. As I drive around the streets of Columbia, I’m always seeing runners off to the side of the road, and they too are often lone runners.

After a decade of running, my knees are now shot to the point that they prevent me from participating in that form of exercise, and so now I can “only” walk. Whenever I go walking nowadays, I rarely go alone. I pushed Eli in his stroller when he was younger, or often one or more of my teenage girls will join me. Occasionally, I’ll meet up with a friend at the trail. Sometimes, if I bribe my husband with the promise of an enormous bowl of ice cream at the end of the walk, I can get him out and moving. The company of others, willing to walk with me, makes the journey so much more worthwhile.

I think this, too, mirrors at least one aspect of our walk of faith – to live a life of obedience to Christ, we desperately need the community of fellow believers. We need to admit that we are often prone to error and distortions, and thus we need others to help us stay on the path of faithful obedience to Christ. We need to encourage, exhort, comfort and rebuke each other (Ephesians 4:29, Galatians 5:13-14, Colossians 3:16-17). We need to worship together and study God’s Word together (Hebrews 10:23-25). We need the community of fellow believers to help us follow Jesus rightly.

This can be a core group of friends for you, or it can be your church family. For me, this community of believers with whom I walk the slow, sometimes-painful path of sanctification is my Crossing small group. Comprised of five married couples, our group has rapidly grown to trust each other enough that we have begun to share fears, failures and weaknesses with each other, and we pray for each other regularly.

Jesus Himself calls us to walk. He called Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 5:18-19). Not too much later, He told the disciples to take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). “Follow me,” at least to my way of thinking, sounds a lot like “walk with me.” The moment God justifies us, He also calls us to a journey of sanctification wherein He will never leave our side (Matthew 28:18-20; Joshua 1:5). Sometimes that journey is painfully slow. Sometimes it’s just painful. Mine certainly has been at times. But the unspeakable privilege of the Christian life is that I’m walking with Jesus right by my side.

While my understanding of Joshua and the Israelites’ faithful obedience to walk around Jericho (Joshua 6) is hopelessly skewed by the antics of the Veggie Tales version – wherein talking gourds, grapes and cucumbers are being hammered with purple frozen slushies as they march around the city, and the hero in the story is a young asparagus – I have to think that God’s call to walk around Jericho every day for seven days was really wearing thin on everyone after days four, five and six. Imagine how much patience it must have taken for all of Israel to continue to simply walk in obedience, to what must have been the ceaseless ridicule of the city’s inhabitants. How comforting it must have been to have not been alone in that walk, especially when no apparent “progress” was being made.

When I consider my own life of faith, my desire to “run” instead of just walk, and how often God reminds us that His victories come in His perfect timing (not ours), I think it really helps to recall how frustrating it must have been to “keep walking” in the face of a superior adversary, with no immediate sense that the walk was doing anything even remotely helpful. It also helps me to remember that God told Joshua He would never leave him or forsake him (Joshua 1:5), and He has told us the same thing (Matthew 28:20). God is with us; we just need to keep walking.

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