Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Walking

"There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up." (Exodus 3:2)
I drive my car on a pretty regular basis. It could be sending my kids to school, or making a trip to the Supermarket. After all, a car is meant to be used, isn't it? Is it? Driving may save us some time, but it can also deprive us of the opportunity to slow down and observe the neighbourhood around me. I remember the walks I take with my wife in the early years when we do not have a car. Often we will say to each other things like:
- "I didn't know there is a community center here."
- "How convenient. There is a small shop that sells essential grocery items."
- "Hey, there is a church here."
- "I didn't see this small path. Beautiful flowers we missed."

We do miss out on a lot of things in our neighbourhood when we rush out each morning to work in a car, and return the same way late at night. Life on the fast lane can give us less opportunity to appreciate the surroundings. Walking can be a very good form of exercise. It can be done casually without much gear. It does not cost anything save calories. It can also be profoundly spiritual. The pace allows one to take time to notice the trees and plants around them. It perks up one's nose to smell the flowers. I notice cars parked in the same place every day. I see traffic attendant, faithfully doing her job of ensuring that vehicles stop to let kids cross the roads safely. I see notices pasted on lamp-posts and walls, hawking either wares or community activities.

If Moses was driving a car, he probably would have missed the burning bush. If Elijah has been too impatient, he will have become more attracted to the strong winds, earthquakes and the many loud noises and miss out the small still divine whisper. It takes an intentional heart to sift away the conventional sounds, in order to discover various gems embedded in daily life. Barbara Brown Taylor laments the loss of attention caused by a quick-fix modern lifestyle.
"The practice of paying attention really does take time. Most of us move so quickly that our surroundings become no more than the blurred scenery we fly past on our way to somewhere else. We pay attention to the speedometer, the wristwatch, the cell phone, the list of things to do, all of which feed our illusion that life is manageable. Meanwhile, none of them meets the first criterion for reverence, which is to remind us that we are not gods - if only we could find some way to do more faster."
(Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p24).
HOW DO WE PAY MORE ATTENTION?
One way is to walk rather than drive. Walk without having the pressing need for a destination. Make it casual. Take it easy. Let time simply pass by. If you like, take a small MP3 player, with some soothing music. Walk and be ready to stop and chat with neighbors. These small little acts can be hugely therapeutic and can effectively counter any terrible inner insecurity that drives us to constantly catch up with the Joneses.

I remember one night back in 1991, when I was struggling to find some sense of direction whether or not I should marry. I have fallen in love with this girl, and we have been enjoying each other's company. Yet, there was something that does not seem right. Where is the cross that God has asked me to carry? That night, with my heart heavy with questions, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood, quietly asking God to show me a sign. I walked past many blocks, quite intent to keep walking until I see some sign. I glanced at cars, stared at billboards and gazed at the dark skies. Nothing seems extraordinary in a very conventional night. It took more than an hour of aimless walking until I saw a large building hidden among some big trees. The leaves were thick and the lights were not bright enough to light up the surroundings. Apparently, something behind the trees seem to want to play hide and seek with me. The green tree is apparently a poor pretender that it has nothing to hide. Edging past some obstacles, I peered to check out what the trees are hiding. What I saw was a revelation not just for my eyes but cuts into my heart. A prominent cross stood proud under the moon's searing spotlight. It was like a heavenly stage played before my eyes for my enjoyment. The cross was the sign that spoke to my heart in ways no book can ever express. I would not have seen this cross if I have not taken a walk. I would not have noticed the building if I have simply rushed around from place to place. I married my wife in 1992, with our hearts united in Christ. That moment of heavenly revelation gave birth to many years of joyful celebration of marital blessing. To God be the glory.

Thought: How do we deal with frantic living or high expectations and low tolerance for error? Do we simply keep running to compete? Or have we learned to ground ourselves on solid ground, to learn to say 'no' when we ought to say no.

Take time to walk. While walking, pray our concerns and enjoy God's creation. Walk in the Lord, spiritually and literally. Perhaps, during one of our walks, we may chance upon an opportunity to see the 'burning bush' that burns but is not burned up. Like the parable of the treasured pearl, such an encounter will cause us to give up everything to buy the pearl; that divine moment with God.

sabbathwalk

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