I like to take walks. I’m not particularly regular with my walks, but when I get a chance they are something I enjoy doing. When I walk, I pray. I also wrestle with ideas and concepts. Maybe there is a particular issue I need to think through. My walks have yet to produce the answers to major problems facing humanity, but they often help me focus on major problems facing me. Or in the very least, they give my mind something to focus on more than a computer screen. So here are three reasons why taking walks helps my Christian walk. Maybe you might want to take a walk for yourself afterwards to think it over.
1) A walk provides me a retreat without having to pack any bags.
Let’s face it, we all long for a retreat free from stress and strain. Have you ever had at that kind of retreat experience? You get off work, only to rush home and pack your bags (if you didn’t do so already, shame on you), then drive 2-3 hours (or more) to the retreat site, only to arrive realizing you forgot a towel, a pillow and your toothbrush. The food reminds you of an elementary school cafeteria and the coffee, well, let’s just say it leaves something to be desired. Then the weather unexpectedly changes from a pleasant 70 degrees to a bitter 35. Of course, where’s your coat or favorite hoodie? At home (yes this has happened to me). You get the picture. Now, this doesn’t neglect the positive things that happen on such retreats but the other setbacks and toil definitely detract from the intended purpose. A walk, on the other hand, provides a retreat without the mess of forgetting a toothbrush or sweater. It is a retreat you can have at any time and is not dependent on bringing the right mix of items to ensure a comfortable weekend of retreat. The downside of a walk, is that it misses out on the fellowship aspect of some retreat weekends. However, the idea of walking alone for a period of time is quite biblical. Jesus made a priority to take a walk to spend time alone. “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12 ESV). A walk provides a small opportunity to imitate Christ in his personal prayer time.
2) A walk aids me in my endeavors to fast.*
I’ll admit it, I have a hard time fasting. I’m good at making excuses about why I need to eat, or watch this show, or spend time doing something else. When it comes to fasting from food, my stomach often wins. The problem? I put myself in situations where succumbing to prematurely breaking a fast is inevitable. Sitting at home staring at the refrigerator while trying to fast becomes a game of will-power, not a holy desire to encounter God by denying self. Instead of looking intently into the heart of God through prayer and Scripture, I can’t help but look intently into the heart of the refrigerator. By taking a walk, I remove myself from the temptation and give my mind (and body) an alternate activity rather than thinking how a turkey and cheese sandwich on sourdough bread sounds yummy at the moment (and it does at that). The expectation of believers is that they will fast for Jesus says, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:20 ESV). We fast because we await the coming of Christ. We draw close to Him through fasting, concentrating our hearts and minds on his words and the fervent expectation of his return. For me, taking a walk helps me to focus that much needed attention on fasting and fervently awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom.
3) A walk gives me a creation-soaked setting in which to meet with God.
Finally, the reason why I like to take walks is because it provides a front-row seat into the theater of creation whereby I can worship and adore the Creator of all things seen and unseen. Whether walking at morning, mid-day or dusk I am given opportunities to experience the grace of creation and marvel at the beauty of God’s creative handiwork. Reflecting on creation the Psalmist says, “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalms 104:24 ESV). Jonathan Edwards, himself a nature enthusiast, says, “The fields and woods seem to rejoice, and how joyful do the birds seem to be in it. How much a resemblance is there of every grace in the fields covered with plants and flowers, when the sun shines serenely and undisturbedly upon them” (Beauty of the World). The opportunity to experience nature in this way, for the believer, should lead to heartfelt praise for a wise creator. It should also humble us to the point of confession and supplication. The splendor of creation should remind us the splendor of a holy God, one whom we love and long to please. A puritan prayer expresses this thought, “Thine is surpassing greatness, unspeakable goodness, super-abundant grace….I know but a part, but that part exceeds all praise.” Taking a walk provides me with an opportunity to praise the God who has revealed himself in creation and present my supplications before him.
These are just three reasons why taking walks helps my Christian walk. Walking provides a retreat without packing a bag. It also practically aids me in my endeavors to fast. And while walking, I encounter the God who intricately created the universe and the things contained therein. My walks, however, are not mystical experiences whereby I interpret life apart from the revealed will of God in Scripture. If anything, walks help me to meditate on the truth of God’s word and provide me an outlet to respond free from the tethers of trivial amusements that might otherwise occupy my time. Walks can (and should be) personal, but I also wish to propose the benefit of walking with your spouse and family for the same purposes. Teaching your children about creation and giving them an opportunity to respond provides an outlet that the latest video game (or even book) could never do. Walking, talking and praying with your spouse can be a holy time of refreshment in your marriage and an opportunity to focus your combined efforts on prayer. So what reasons might you have to take a walk? Take one, and find out.
*I am indebted to a member of our local church for impressing this point upon me.