The Way to Walk with God
In the fall of 1988, my wife Victoria and I stood atop Katahdin, the massive mountain which dominates Maine’s lake country. Those last miles to the top of that final mountain of the 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail were hiked in the pre-dawn darkness. When we reached Thoreau Spring, one mile from the northern end of the Appalachian Trail, the top of the mountain was enshrouded in a cloud. We were torn. We had hiked in the darkness to reach the mountaintop at sunrise. We didn’t want to end our hike in a fog. But yet, we did want to keep hiking and not wait out the sunrise below the peak. So we all decided to march on.
Our pace quickened in that last mile, we climbed the treeless peak watching as wind blew the cloud apart, shattering the fog over the summit. On we hiked, reaching the rough wood sign marking the end of our quest just before the sun topped the horizon, lighting the peak with a shaft of red light. As the sun continued to rise, the surrounding Maine lake country basked in an amber glow that caused the many ponds below us to sparkle in the sunlight. It was glorious. Words fail to capture the feeling.
Yet, we never would have reached that peak without the miles of hiking in mud. We would not have gotten there without the eight days of straight hard rain in Virginia. We wouldn’t have made it without the trips and falls on the path or any of the other difficulties overcome. It took perseverance to make it to that fall sunrise at trail’s end.
You are on a journey no less demanding heading toward a destination far more glorious. It’s a walk. A long walk. Even a rewarding walk. But a walk.
Walking is a favorite expression in the Old Testament for a relationship with God. We walk in God’s ways. We walk by faith. We walk with God. This idea of walking is such a part of Old Testament thought that Jews call their moral and ethical code “halachah,” which means “the way to walk.”
Walking. It had deep roots in the culture of the Jews. They began as a nomadic people. The essential Jewish statement of history begins, “A wandering Aramean was my father…” Abraham left the home of his father and wandered out into the desert to walk with God.
We find the ongoing theme in scripture that God has little interest in religion. The content of a person’s heart, and the ongoing walk, mattered to God then and now.
God does not want you to come to one big religious moment of making things all better and then get on with the rest of your life as usual. God wants the rest of your life. God wants an ongoing relationship that is more about the journey than the destination. The prophet Micah put it like this, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
In response to our belief in God, we are to do justice. In all our dealings, we should be fair, giving the justice to others we want to receive. We are also, Micah says, to love kindness. The word translated here as kindness is the Hebrew word “Chesed.” Notoriously difficult to translate into a single word, Chesed is a word that describes the love that God has for all people. Chesed is a faithful love that will remain true even when the person loved proves unworthy. We see this same chesed love that God has for us in the love Jesus showed us all on the cross when as he was dying he prayed for those who were killing him, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We are to grow to love that type love of that God shows as we walk with God.
It is an ongoing relationship with God alongside you at every turn in the path. This is the key to understanding this passage from Micah. Micah asks, “Is God impressed with your religiosity? No! is the reply.
God will not be impressed with church attendance alone, no matter how often you attend. The content of your heart matters to God. God will not care if you tithe, or even if you give God 90% and live on the 10%. God does not care about those things alone. What God wants is to walk with you. Then going to church and tithing flow naturally, not from trying to buy or earn your way into God’s good graces, but from that daily walk.
This is where the lessons from the Appalachian Trail come back in. A spiritual journey takes just as much perseverance. To walk with God daily, you have to commit yourself to the trek. You don’t need to worry about the destination. Just keep making a few more steps.
You may feel like your time reading the Bible is not teaching you anything on a given day. Just keep reading. If you haven’t been reading the Bible, then you already know why you don’t feel like you are making any headway. You are not walking alone. You are walking with God and scripture is one way to be more aware of your traveling companion.
Prayer is another. Some days you will feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Keep praying. God is walking with you, listening. God is more faithful than your feelings. Just keep praying for there will be other days when you feel like obstacles fall before you in your path.
Finally, there is worship. Some weeks you’ll attend church and feel like you spent a little time in heaven. Some weeks you’ll wonder if it was worth the struggle to get the family up and dressed and in the car. Keep worshipping. Once again, God is more faithful than your feelings.
Your walk of faith is a journey. And with perseverance comes great rewards that can’t be experienced by the folks who never take those steps. And God will not leave you alone along the path, but will be there with you every step of the way.
(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church.)
King of Peace Episcopal Church + P.O. Box 2526 + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526