I’ve done a lot of walking lately. Maybe you have too. I’m thinking the coronavirus pandemic has made us all walkers. We can’t go to the gym, or at least that version of the gym that made us like going. And so, for those of us like me, whose joints are too old to run, we walk instead.
My wife, Sharon, and I have resorted to what we call “long walks.” What that means is that we don’t just walk around the block, but we walk several kilometers. We walk crazy distances.
Several years back, I was in Zambia, and I was inspired by people who walked 10 kilometers to church. And so, now, in order to stay in shape, we’re walking to places that we would never have dreamed of walking to. Places that if, prior to COVID-19, my wife Sharon would have said, “Hey let’s walk there,” I would have said, “Are you crazy? That’s what we have a car for.”
But now we walk.
Walking is good. Walking together does several wonderful things. Not only does it burn calories, but it makes you observe what and who is actually in your neighbourhood. Right now, Sharon and I are living in a small apartment close to Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. Because we’re walking, we’re starting to see the same people that we would have otherwise missed: the kind lady who smokes by the front porch of our building; the Latino guy who walks his puppy every day at 8 a.m.; the construction guys who shows up at the local Tim Hortons at 8:15 every morning (when we show up). The gal that needed help hauling her bed from her apartment to her truck. After 15 minutes of sweating and straining and using bad language, I said, “Sharon, why don’t you let me try.” Just kidding.
Sometimes a “good morning!” or “how you’re doing?” evolves into a longer conversation. I’m always amazed by how hungry some people are just to talk. I’d like to say that I’ve shared the gospel with them already, but that isn’t true. Truthfully, I just try to smile, ask questions, and listen.
Walking has also made us interact more as a couple. Sharon and I have had so many great conversations with each other over the past weeks and months as we’ve walked together. To be sure, we’ve argued about various topics, but mostly we’ve enjoyed just being together “in the moment.” It’s fun dreaming together, talking about kids, and discussing the ministry we’ve enjoyed together over the years.
And then finally, it makes you love your neighbourhood just a little more. As I do my own daily walks, I’ll think things like: “Why is this garbage here? Why does this person have to sleep on the streets? And what would make this neighbourhood a better place?”
Jesus walked a lot. A few years back, I went to Israel and it was only then that I realized what it meant that Jesus had to walk around Galilee, and then to Jerusalem, and Samaria, and further. It was far, but walkable. And I think, maybe walking was Jesus’ preferred way of getting around. Because it allowed him to teach his disciples, to be with people for extended periods of time, and to answer their questions and share the good news with them. Loving, helping, and healing people take time. And that is what walking gives you.
Maybe that’s what we all need to do more. Just walk around and bring life and love to people—to really see people and care for them. To be with our loved ones instead of in front of a computer. Maybe walking is a part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus (which kind of means just a walker behind Jesus).
Can I encourage you to walk your neighbourhood tonight or this week? Can I encourage you to see the things that Jesus would see if he walked your neighbourhood? Who knows what kingdom-building things might happen.
Pastor Bruce Gritter is a Resonate Global Mission local mission leader in Edmonton, Alberta.