The joy of walking14 Oct 2023
Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to ‘follow him’, was figurative and literal. We too walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
Jesus said ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6)
Early Christians referred to themselves as followers of The Way. Jesus often uses ‘walking’ words in the Gospels. ‘Follow me’, ‘Go’, ‘Come’, ‘Go out into the whole world’.
Walking features in so many of the miracles and teachings of Jesus. After the Angel Gabriel tells Mary of the Annunciation, Mary walks to visit Elizabeth, her cousin. Mary and Joseph will walk to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born, and to and from Jerusalem and Nazareth.
John the Baptist walks to spread the news of the coming of the Messiah; disciples walk after Jesus to visit his home in Capernaum and to follow him. Jesus walks with fathers and mothers to heal their children; he sends ailing people to walk to find healing for soul and body.
A woman of Samaria walks to the well for water and finds in Jesus truth, and forgiveness, and the water of eternal life; another walks a long sad path to beg Jesus for a healing for her daughter. She walks home with a promise, and finds her daughter healed on her return. Jesus walks to Lazarus’ tomb where he raises him from the dead.
STEP BY STEP
The Way of the Cross, and the days of the Passion and death are marked out, step by step as Jesus walks towards his death. The women walk to Jesus’ tomb on Easter morn. They discover it empty, and the two Apostles run to confirm it, and Mary of Magdala walks in the Garden and meets the Risen Lord.
Walking is how we go places. We run, we jump, we dance and skip. We limp and leap. We lag behind, or we run. We follow. We prance and march and skip. And sometimes it takes us all we have to put one foot after another. The soul travels at a walking pace. We walk and we talk. We speak and we listen.
As I write, my brother and family are travelling through Scotland. They are visiting some of the historic and literary high spots of that romantic country, and the names of castles and battlefields, heroes and heroines are chiming in my mind like the old novels and poems we read as children. There is a magic in standing where Mary Queen of Scots stood. Or in stepping through doorways where once our own ancestors walked. History can be felt in our hearts, and feet, teaching us that we are bound by memory, as well as time and space.
A friend once told me that visiting the old house and fields that had been her great-grandparents, she had been amazed at how strong her feeling was that she belonged; that she felt a deep familiarity with this place as she walked the fields and hills where her forebears had lived and left.
We feel a place becomes ours when we walk it until it is familiar. After all these years of living in the country, there are still parts of the city that are my friends. Parliament House Steps; the Flinders Street Clocks; Newman College Chapel. I traverse my old paths and look up to the gracious remnants of beautiful old Collins Street.
Walking together seems to naturally support connection between friends and families. When we take our grandchildren to the park on the corner to play, or walk down to the beach, or to visit a neighbour, we share the simple pleasures of the day.
Going for a walk takes us outside. The world seems less restricted, and we feel the open space, the sky, the warmth of the sun, the ice of frost, the movement of clouds and wind. Heard out of doors, sounds seem different.
Walking together creates its own rhythm. We ‘fall into step’ with our companion. The gentle to-and-fro of our pace supports a sharing of ideas, or the confiding of a problem. We find that we relax. Conversing as we go, we might find ourselves sharing memories, or asking advice. We learn about another’s joys, tastes, likes and dislikes. We come to simply enjoy our company.
Walking brings clarity to the mind. I also like to walk alone. You see so much more than when you are in a car.
Generally, I like to make a circuit. I have a rule that while I am walking, I am not worrying, or list-making, or trying to understand something. I am simply noticing. I watch the birds, and keep a count of how many different ones I see this time. I watch the signs of the shifting seasons or feel the wind blow. I look to see if the buds on the almond tree have popped the first spring petals.
I make a last circuit and turn for home.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 edition of Madonna magazine.