One of the staples of life in Jesus’ time was travelling by foot with one another. In between each poignant story of the Gospel are hours, and sometimes days, of Jesus travelling by foot with the apostles. They experienced blisters, dirt, rain, danger, exhaustion, hunger and thirst together as they journeyed.
The image of a long journey by foot lends itself easily to be a metaphor about life as a whole.
It is no wonder that the phrase “Walking with God” became a prominent metaphor in Biblical times and remains today. But it isn’t just how we encounter God. Building on the metaphor, Paul calls us to similarly “walk” with one another:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV).
So the question becomes, how can we walk with one another?
The answer lies in digging deeper into that image of walking on a journey.
It can be taken for granted in our modern day with so many transportation options. I’m guilty of it myself - even though I live just a few blocks from my son’s school, too often I choose to simply drive him there rather than take the extra few minutes on foot. But there is something about those times I choose to walk with my son to school- a different pace, depth and different type of interaction with him, even in just a few short minutes of a walk.
The ancient and medieval churches knew this reality as well. It is why one of the prominent spiritual disciplines was that of pilgrimage. Walking on foot for hundreds of miles to reach a destination of spiritual significance. Over ten years ago, I had the opportunity to experience one of these pilgrimages myself in northern Spain.
The depth of the metaphor of walking with one another came alive for me during that time, although it was not my plan. See, I specifically chose winter to hike this particular pilgrim trail as it was the lowest traffic time. If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have to “put up” with anyone and get to hike it all by myself.
But soon I would find myself travelling with a variety of people from a variety of places. Some travelled with me for just a few days, and others for the majority of the trip. And through those long days of walking together the metaphor of walking with God and others took on a deeper meaning.
In our modern world we can become insulated by our modern conveniences. Easy travel, entertainment and a fast paced life have left our lives, as some say, “a mile wide and an inch deep.” You only experience things and people in glimpses. An hour on a Sunday, maybe another hour or two during the week or month, and a bit more through a well crafted social media post.
But when you’re walking with someone each day, all day, day in and day out, a much different picture can emerge. You’ve seen their best and their worst, and they’ve seen yours. You’ve seen exhaustion, injury, elation, excitement, and everything in between. And day in and day out you press on towards your final goal.
That experience has been a powerful image for me when it comes to how I view church. Just as I would not have been able to finish that pilgrimage journey without a community with me, the same applies to my life as a whole.
So maybe today you are at a place where you are finding being in community difficult- whether due to conflicts or other circumstances. My encouragement to you would be to take a step back and view that relationship within the larger story of the Gospel and God’s redemption of the world, and see that you are both on a journey towards the same goal.
If you’re in that place I was in when I started my hike, and you don’t see the need for others, my encouragement would be to reflect on your reasons why. Is it just a lack of desire, something you don’t see as useful? Is it a reaction from past pains or difficult relationships? Led God guide you to those thoughts and spend time with Him there and let His Word breath in those places.
And for those of you who want community or are in community, there is a way to experience that depth I described without all packing your bags and going on a hiking trip. There are lessons and wisdom that you can learn to help bring that depth to your smaller community within the larger body of Mercy Hill Church. To share these with you, we will be holding a special teaching time called Biblical Soul Care.
Biblical Soul Care is for anyone who is either in community or desires community to help develop the skills and knowledge that will help you walk alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.
This summer the sessions will be held on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month at 6:30pm at our Bay View location. Childcare is provided. If you would like more information or to sign-up, contact Phillip Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org