Monday, July 28, 2014

When We Walk With the Lord...







I am not a runner. One look at the only pair of athletic shoes I have owned in the last 10 years should be enough to convince you of that statement as fact. Just in case though, I will repeat myself: I am not a runner.  Maybe I could be a runner or even should be a runner, but even when I was much thinner, pre-mommyhood, I have never really enjoyed running. That being said, I know a lot of runners. My sister-in-law loves to run and was recently lamenting over being sidelined due to an injury. My brother-in-law also runs "just for fun," a concept I have never quite grasped.  A friend I used to teach with would go to a math conference and stop along the way for a "scenic run" at some random location. (which I never understood) A friend from high school even has a facebook page all about running with her. I often joke that I will run in two scenarios: 1) if my child is hurt or needs me, I will become the Flash and 2) if I am being chased by something or someone incredibly terrifying with a weapon of mass destruction. Other than that, I am not a runner.

From the outside looking in, I envision running as a very personal time; a reflective time. Most people I know who run spend an inordinate amount of time getting their shoes just right, adjusting all the supportive gear and then setting the distance counter and getting the music ready. They usually pop in the headphones, look off into the distance with determined focus, and take off on a self-reflective, internal journey that is as equally about solitude as it is about being physically fit. They seem so focused on the run and not so much on whatever is around them. This seems to be especially true if they are in some sort of race or event.

Now walking, walking is different. Walking I can do! When people go walking, they often go together in pairs or groups and it is much different; more communal.  Even when people run "together" they really don't seem to do much talking, it appears to be more about a pace or an end goal. (Let's be real honest here, if I tried to talk while running, I would likely get a word in every six or seven huffing breaths and sound like Tarzan having a heart attack!) Now if you are a runner, and I am way off, please don't chastise me- this is just my take looking from the outside. When I try to pinpoint the difference between walking and running, I immediately have this idea or feeling that walking is more intimately connected with someone else where running is more introspective.

Maybe that is why there are so many old school gospel songs about walking with God. Being a music lover, I am also one of those weird people that will hear a phrase or see something and immediately the line to a random song pops out of my mouth. I've even been known to rewrite the lyrics in a goofy way to fit a certain circumstance, much to my daughter's embarrassment. Several popped into my head while contemplating the idea of walking with God.

"Just a closer walk with thee....grant it Jesus is my plea...daily walking close to thee...let it be dear Lord, let it be." 

" When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way..."

Or my very favorite (in Anne Murray's silky voice):
" ...and He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the love we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."

I have sang many times in the past for various churches and at different events and one song that I used to love to sing was based on the scripture Isaiah 40:31.

" But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

During the intro to the song, I would always quote this scripture so that the people hearing me sing would know where the song originated. Something about the way the verse read, however, always seemed strange to me. Why would someone only grow weary when they were running but would faint from walking? Why would walking even be listed with flying and running, which seem to be much more physical? Maybe I am just gifted with an incredibly strange mind, but this verse always struck me as oddly worded.

Fast forward to my current thoughts about walking versus running. In my time with the Lord today, I was given a little more insight about maybe why it is worded this way. It always seemed strange to me because I was thinking in the literal, physical sense and not in the spiritual heart sense of the scripture. In the Bible, there is verse after verse about walking with the Lord or in the light or by love and faith. Here are just a few:

Genesis 5:22, Genesis 6:9, Deuteronomy 10:12, Joshua 22:5, Jeremiah 7:23, Micah 6:8, 2Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:2, John 8:12, John 11:9-10, Galatians 5:16, 1 John 1:6, 2 John 1:6, 3 John 1:3 and my favorite 3 John 1:4

 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4 (NIV-emphasis mine)

If you take the time to look up and read these scriptures, you will see that "walking" is regularly used to describe our spiritual relationship with God and how we mete out this journey, so-to-speak, that is before us. Walking is used to intimate the connection we have to the Lord and by that connection in Him, the connection we have to one another. 

Likewise, there are also many scriptures that use the word "run" in them. Most are not metaphorical in their context until we get to Paul's writings of the New Testament. Paul used the terms "running the race" more than once to give the readers of his letters the visual concept of stretching, working and persevering for the sake of the gospel of Christ. Read for yourself the words of the apostle to those he cared deeply for and mentored:

1 Corinthians 9:24-26, Galatians 2:2, Galatians 5:7, Philippians 2:16, and Hebrews 12:1 (the author of Hebrews is unknown but thought by most to be the Apostle Paul)

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" Hebrews 12:1 (NIV - emphasis mine)

Here is where my thoughts on Isaiah come to the forefront. If we look at the wording in Isaiah as a physical description of only growing weary while running, but growing completely faint from walking, the context is strange. However, if we switch gears and think spiritually, for me it shed a completely different light! What if "not growing weary" really means we will persevere spiritually in this race we are running; we won't give up or give in to entanglements of sin. We will retain a staunch focus on the end goal and become less aware of the struggles around us. If we place our hope (some versions say "trust" or "to wait on") we will be given the extra measure of grace and strength that allows us to continue to push through the tough times and the missteps and the drama that is here on this earth! Now that is something worth getting excited over! 

So what about that weird wording regarding walking and being faint? You may think I am silly, or that this should have been something a seasoned Christian would have realized a long time ago, but honestly, it just came to me today. I always took the verse in Isaiah to say that we will be able to handle life's ups and downs with God, which it does, but it is so much more intricately woven into scripture than just that simple concept. For a long time, the simplicity was enough for me, but I now crave a deeper understanding of the Word. 

In my reasoning, the wording " they will walk and not be faint..." is speaking completely about our hearts. God does not want our hearts to grow faint. His desire is that our heart beats strong and deliberately for him. He does not want us to grow bored with our relationship with him or to place it on the lower half of our "to do" list. He wants that relationship to grow and become stronger every minute of every day. He doesn't want the "flash in the pan" type of relationship with us. The scary part, for me at least, is that it is our responsibility to build the relationship between God and ourselves. He has already laid out everything and will always be standing there waiting, willing and ready to complete the work, but we have to determine to do the work. 

When Trey and I walk together, despite the main idea being to be healthier and in better shape, we usually hold hands, it is just natural for us. (Truth be told, we hold hands a lot and I love it!) Walking with my husband is very intimate, personal and enjoyable. It is not something I have to persevere at doing. It is a time, that afterwards, I feel more closely connected to my husband than before; more bonded. It is spending time together even for just a few minutes with no agenda, no list, no ulterior motive, no drama, no end goal other than to get back to the house, the starting point, together.

How much could we strengthen our connection to our Savior by simply walking with Him like that; even just once a day? I don't mean doing a lesson in your Bible study because you don't want the girl beside you on Wednesday night to see how blank your pages are. I don't mean going to God in desperate prayer because you need a situation to be settled or healing for a loved one. I don't even mean singing to a favorite praise song that comes on the radio. I don't mean reading the online devotional and skimming through the scriptures because you feel guilty if you don't. I am talking about a deliberate, planned, no agenda, no ulterior motive, no end goal other than to get back to our starting point, our first love, of our walk together.

 I think our walk would be much improved. I think our hearts would beat for our Savior loud and clear. I think our relationship with Him would improve. Don't get me wrong, I think we should still sing spontaneous praises to him. I think we should definitely bring him our heartfelt pleas for help and deliverance. I think we should do our Bible studies or devotions and if it is out of pure selfish desire to not look bad or from guilt, then I think God can use that time to speak to our hearts regardless. I am just saying that hanging out with God, talking to Him about everything, placing your hope and trust in Him,  holding His hand, that is when you will fall in love and your heart will not grow faint. 

So, I am challenging every person who reads this blog to try it for a month (30 days). Set a specific time and length of time to walk with God daily. It could be 5 minutes or an hour, whatever you decide. Choose something that is a bit scary, but at the same time not ridiculously out of reach. This is a time to grasp God's hand until it becomes natural. (The first time Trey and I ever held hands was pretty awkward, but now it is just the easiest, most natural thing for us to do.) You can have a devotional or several different ones, play some praise music, spend time in prayer or just quietly and earnestly listen for Him to show you something. I don't want to tell you what to study or read or pray about, because I am not an expert in all those things. I can only tell you that the scriptures are His intimate letter to you and if you've never read them at all, 1 John is a beautiful place to start. I love James, and the letters of Paul to the Colossians and to Timothy. Honestly there are so many places, but those are good starting places in my opinion. Just pick something and see what He says to your heart through it! I would love to hear how the 30 days are going and what you have learned along the way, so please leave me a comment occasionally! I am also committed to these 30 days, so I need your encouragement as well!

One last thing before I complete this post. If Trey and I don't take a walk one night, our love for each other doesn't immediately fall away. We just walk another time, another day; no huge dramatic guilt trip needed! Please do not beat yourself up to the point that you never step back on the path; that is counterproductive and nothing more than Satan's attempts to steal your testimony. Don't let him have the opportunity. Your testimony is the only thing he is after and he can only steal it if you hand it over. We have a duty to protect our relationships and the ultimate relationship of Savior to saved requires our utmost attention. 

So who is with me? 30 days starts now! Either comment below that you are determined to a daily walk this month or go to my facebook page and comment there. I want us to encourage and give accountability to one another! I will continue to try to post once a week whatever God lays on my heart. Thank you so much for your support and love!

Blessed more than I deserve,
Stephanie