How to Walk with God, Literally

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When I was ten, I tried to invent the zip-line! Instead I broke my tibia and fibula. A compound fracture. I languished in the hospital forever and wore a stone-like a cast for months. It was the dark ages before physical therapy. I think some doctors were still using leeches!

Later I suffered four separate surgeries on the bottom of my left foot to remove tumors. Again I spent months on crutches. I crutched to school. I could walk backward and forward on them without either foot touching the ground. I was a talented kid! By high school I worried I would be crippled like my grandfather. 

Thank God I can walk, though not barefoot and always with a limp. It took years for my left leg to recover from the muscle atrophy caused by so much trauma and disuse.

The Lost Spiritual Discipline 

Over the years as a pastor and counselor, I’ve similarly watched the spiritual formation and faith of many people atrophy.

Why? We no longer walk with God. Literally! 

To God walking is more than a convenient way to find our lost car keys. Walking describes the activity central to a life spent with God.

Walking is a long lost, essential spiritual discipline. 

Our bodies need to move or die. So too our souls. Yes, we should read the Bible, pray, meditate, journal, and worship. These disciplines are essential. But notice that we call them “Quiet Times,” as if God is some bespectacled librarian shushing us every time we move. 

Unfortunately, these passive “prayer closet” disciplines communicate to us the heretical idea that body and spirit are separate and that spirit is more valuable than body. But God created both and declared both good. The truth is spiritual formation—growth in God—is not passive but requires and reflects movement.

Metaphor and More

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is packed with walking.

  • Adam and Eve physically walked with God in the garden. But it was also spiritual communion.
  • Enoch spiritually walked with God physically.
  • Jesus discipled, healed, and challenged as he walked, calling himself the way. And instructed his disciples to physically and spiritually follow him.

But isn’t walking with God for us just a metaphor? The late Eugene Peterson said metaphor “means what it says and what it doesn’t say.” The metaphor of walking with God speaks to a spiritual truth and a physical reality. God also uses metaphor in this way for the sacraments. Bread and wine is physical sustenance and spiritually Christ’s body and blood. Physically walking with God is sacramental.

Life is Like a Hike

Pilgrimages also reflect the truth of the importance of walking as a spiritual discipline. The ancient Israelites physically sang spiritual Psalms of Ascent as they pilgrimaged from their homes to the Temple. They walked with one another and God! 

Spiritual life is a pilgrimage not a statuary.

 

On our forty-first anniversary The Redheaded-Wildflower and I began a pilgrimage of our own. We’re hiking—walking’s more athletic cousin—the Colorado Trail. The CT snakes through through six wilderness areas, traversing alpine landscapes, pine forests, aspen groves, burn areas, lakes, and creeks. It starts near Denver at 5,500 ft. above sea level, eventually climbs to 13,271ft., and then terminates 486 miles later at 7,000ft. in Durango. 

We’re hiking it in segments. It will take a few years.

Sounds like life doesn’t it? Dangerous! Crazy. Up and down. Wild. Exhilarating. Long. Beautiful. Rugged. Transformational. Hard. Rewarding!

Recently we hiked twelve of the sixteen miles of Segment 4, mostly up (both ways) shouldering heavy back packs. Exhausted, we camped in an aspen grove near Lost Creek at 10,500ft. We pitched the tent, ate, and tried to escape the mosquitoes. I settled on a bare log to write in my journal. 

I wanted to capture what God had spoken to me during the hike. Mostly this, this blog. 

God reminded me during my hike that this was not a spiritless adventure but a physical and spiritual one.

Keep your eyes open, God seemed to whisper. I’m here.

 

Then a peace, a touch of light washed over me. I looked up and meadow and mountain were painted with a soft, gentle evening light like fine golden linen pulled up over the day.

After months filled with fear over COVID and angst over racial injustice, I sighed. I heard the wind in the aspens. Or maybe it was God sighing too. 

Scripture tells us, Fear not. God is with us. God took a truth I had read passively—God is with us—and with the rhythms of my tired steps drove it from my head to my bones. That hike became sacramental, combining in me spiritual truth and physical reality. I felt God’s presence.  

I had walked—literally—with God!

   

Three Mile an Hour God

[box] “God walks ‘slowly’ because he is love. If he is not love he would move much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is ‘slow’ and yet it is lord over all the other speeds since it is the speed of love. It goes on in the depths of our life whether we notice it or not, whether we are currently hit by a storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks.[Emphasis mine]” Kosuke Koyama from Three Mile an Hour God.[/box]

Walking is a physical spiritual discipline God wants you to add into your life. Not everyone need climb to 10,000ft. for an epiphany. Or walk even three miles an hour. You can hobble or roll or scoot or draw close to the open window and experience God as he walks with you at your speed of love.

 

Suggestions for Turning Your Walks into a Spiritual Discipline

  • Take a prayer walk. No audio device. Listen.
  • Take an audio device and listen to the Gospels, focusing on how Jesus walked.
  • Take scripture cards and memorize.
  • Walk with a friend and engage in God-life conversations.
  • Practice silence.
  • Notice God in nature, including people.
  • Walk at the speed of love, greeting others, petting dogs.
  • Leave your cell phone home. God doesn’t need it to reach you.
  • Talk to God as you walk. He’s there and is listening.
  • Plan a pilgrimage.

18 thoughts on “How to Walk with God, Literally”

  1. Georgie Ann KETTIG

    this re-emphasizes the lessons of God being present in “the still small voice”, and to “be still and know that I am God”, and that He is “not far from us”,… at one point during a rather long period of convalescence, being pretty much “disabled” and “down for the count”, I was able to take sincere comfort in realizing that I could still faithfully serve Him while simply lying down and breathing,… He let me know that as I lay there in “love and faith” with Him, that I was actually “blessing the air” as I would (automatically) be breathing it “in and out!”,… such a comforting concept!,… it doesn’t seem that it is God Who is pushing us to be world-style over-achievers, or else to have to consider ourselves to be failures,… I love “the speed of love” concept,…

    1. Georgie Ann KETTIG

      I wasn’t really trying to make a “misfit” comment here, but due to somewhat hindering knee and back problems, it’s been a very long time since “intentionally walking”, for purposeful reasons or for its own sake, has been on any of my usual “to do” lists!,… (but, so far, I do “get around” when and where necessary ~ praise be to God!),… but, it seems that my mental “default setting” has become “if you can’t walk, just breathe!” ~ it’s “all good enough” with God,… (-:

      1. I didn’t take it as a misfit comment. As I wrote, I thought of people who can’t walk or walk well. That maybe why I started the story where I did. Crutches. But we know God’s presence and love is not determined by our abilities. God simply uses what abilities we have to be with us.

        1. Georgie Ann KETTIG

          I certainly related to the “crutches” reference, not that I’ve ever used them,… but I do have a fabulous lightweight pushcart “thingy” for toting heavy and/or bulky “stuff”,… it’s a true “lifesaver”, and makes me look “almost normal”!,… (I think I “fool” a lot of people ~ Versacart ~ I have no stock in the company, but do highly recommend it!),…

          God knows us so intimately, since He made us everything that we are, and breathed not only “life” but “His Life” into us,… (“in Him we live and move and have our being!”),… even my somewhat limiting physical damages feel “redeemed” by His ever-present, understanding and compensating Love,…

          “old people” can enjoy remembering their (God-given) youthful abilities and unique talents, while being happy for those “who still can do”, and being also rather amazed that just relaxing and “letting their mind wander” ~ (which is so easy to do!) ~ into their own past, or being inspired by the shared present of themselves and others, that experiencing the peacefulness and joy (at “the speed of love”) becomes a true reward in and of itself,… just imagine how happy God must be when we truly love and enjoy these “life gifts” that He has given us,…

  2. I wonder what would happen if we walked everywhere instead of drove. I walked everywhere when I lived in Guatemala. My pace of life was way slower. I loved it.

    1. I remember those days. And you got hit by a car! Yikes. When I visited you, we walked everywhere and it was so rich. We saw the city and people from a more relational place. Did God speak to you in all that walking?

      1. Yes, he sure did. But sometimes it was just dodging huge puddles and the cars that would try to splash the water onto me when they drove through them.

  3. of course , Christianity was first called ‘The Way’. I love the idea that we are all walking each other home.

  4. karl wheeler

    Beautiful picture! I really like the The speed of love. Blessings to you

    1. Thanks, Karl. I am grateful for God’s speed of love. I don’t often even travel in my spiritual life at 3 miles an hour. Take care.

  5. I really like this post. I agree the spiritual and the physical are inseparable.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    Here Paul is talking about our physical bodies, recognizing that our physical bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is spiritual, and yet it is housed within our physical bodies. The spiritual and the physical are indeed inseparable.

  6. Graham Commander

    I’m not a hicker but love to walk when on holidays, better way of exploring.
    As to my walk with God, it’s been more of a meander, as I have all too frequently strayed off the path

    1. I appreciate the word “holiday.” It harkens back to the origin of the word: holy day. That is batter than vacation, a day where you vacate. The idea of a meander and straying off path is not unusual. Me too. I think one of the ideas is thinking of walking as a physical spiritual discipline can turn our walk with God into less of a meander (though not high speed) into a more intentional process. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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