“Jesus walked this lonesome valley/he had to walk it by himself/O nobody else could walk it for him/he had to walk it by himself.”
These old words from a gospel song are the words that arise for me in the Lenten season. It is about walking for me this year. It is not that I believe in and practice a completely private and solitary spirituality, but that this season of the Church year is the time for me to pay attention to my own being that I bring to the community, thoughts and actions for which I am uniquely and solely responsible that all contribute to the intended rule of God.
Walking is something I resist with amazing cunning and power. I read, along with everyone else, about the dramatic changes that a little walking can make in a person’s overall health. Yet I would rather do almost anything else. However, in Church a few Sundays ago in the reading from Hebrew scripture, Naaman’s servant said to him, “If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?” (2 Kngs. 5:13). And the word for me was clear; if walking is one of the things that contributes to my health as an embodied person of Spirit, why would I not do something easy, something accessible, something healthy for God’s sake? So this Lent I am walking every day–around my labyrinth, around my block, down the parking lot, up the boardwalk–for God’s sake and my own.
And Jesus walked, maybe as much for location and culture as for Spirit. But much of his teaching and presence was done while walking. But Jesus also uses walking as a prescription for wholeness. One of the most compelling stories that appears in John’s gospel takes place by the pool called Bethzatha: a man has been lying these for 38 years trying to be healed. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6). This question has been a constant one in my ongoing examination of conscience for many years now; do I want to be healed of the things that make me less than whole–my wounds? my judgmental attitudes, my cherished lists of hurts and slights? I believe that I do want to be healed of those things, and made it a spiritual practice to participate with healers in the work of transformation that the Spirit is doing in me. So, Jesus says, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” It’s about the walking, the moving off the stuck place, the getting out of the toxic place, the pool of self doubt and self-pity.