What’s special about waking? It’s not a glib question. Our spiritual journey is characterised as a walk, and if you’re not sure about that, here’s just a small selection of the Bible texts that say so –
walk before me, and be thou perfect (Genesis 17:1) – shew them the way wherein they must walk (Exodus 18:20) – walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments (Leviticus 26:3) – walk in his ways (Deuteronomy 8:6) – love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways (Joshua 22:5) – keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways (1 Kings 2:3) – though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4) – no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11) – I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living (Psalm 116:9) – Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved (Proverbs 28:8) – let us walk in the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:5) – they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31) – ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16) – I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way (Jeremiah 31:9) – walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 20:19) – we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever (Micah 4:5) – walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord (Luke 1:6) – Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you (John 12:35) – walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:31) – we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4) – For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) – Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) – walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us (Ephesians 5:2) – walk worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7) – they shall walk with me in white (Revelation 3:4) – the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it (Revelation 21:24)
– that’s a lot of texts! And they emphasise that our faith journey is not a ride, not a flight, nor a swim, nor even a run. So, the answer to the question “What’s special about waking?” should teach us something valuable. I’ve enjoyed many scenic journeys by car. But these verses weren’t written in a modern western society where even the poor have cars (except in big cities where public transport is easier). In the past, rich people had horses (or other domestic animals) and super rich people had carriages. But walking is for everyone – and so is the spiritual life.
The manner of our walk is a uniquely human characteristic – and it gives us distinctive advantages. Walking on two legs frees our hands to carry or manipulate things. That means we can do useful tasks while walking – tasks like sowing, or reaping, or bearing burdens. In our metaphorical spiritual walk, we can bear one another’s burdens (but only a few). Walking also allows us to see further we would if we went on all fours. But it is slow.
What’s problematic about being slow? As well as seeing further, we can see closer. We can notice details that a rider would miss – and we can take that further by stopping. How many times have you wanted to stop on a car journey and found it impractical to pull over safely? So, you miss things. But a walker can stop instantly – to listen to the song of a bird, or a rustle in the undergrowth, to stoop for a closer look at a flower or an insect, or to respond to possible danger.
There is danger on the journey. Walking allows us to look out for it, but the unique nature of our bipedal walk exposes us to one particular risk. Tripping up is a risk that affects humans more than most animals. On the other hand, it’s much easier to trip a runner than a walker. Take time. Think about where you are going spiritually. Take the long view.
We need to pace our spiritual life at a rate that allows us to stop and take notice. Take time to smell the roses. Look. Notice. Enjoy. Appreciate. Hurrying is inefficient. It leads to bad decisions. Fast food provides incomplete nourishment. Fast living starves our souls. When we commit ourselves to God, we receive his Grace. It’s a precious and miraculous event – but it’s just a start. Walking is an endurance exercise. Once we’ve begun our spiritual journey, we need to persevere. “… everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”
© Derrick Phillips 2021
 Matthew 10:22 (New Living Translation). N.B. this doesn’t imply conditional salvation. “Saved” in this context means more than just forgiveness and acceptance. It implies wholeness and completeness. Let’s go for that.