The Lenten Walk

“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.

In researching the Lenten Walk, I am also so noticing that many older translations of New Testament scriptures that use the word “walk” are now translated “live” in more modern translations. Maybe walking is an facet of living that I will encounter in undertaking this practice. Will there be “results” to this walk–lower blood pressure, lost pounds, more flexible joint? or will I have creative and mystical thoughts that I can bring to my various ministries? or will I see through a new lens God’s multifaceted and variegated world broaden and deepen my heart to love what God loves?   I don’t know. All I know as I begin this season is that am walking/living with the Holy One.

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who writes on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture, and what is happening in the world--hers, her neighborhood, the Church and the world. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.

  • Barbara Cairns

    Hello Anna,
    I have a walking meditation I did a few years ago for lent and I would love to sent it to you. Walking is a tool for grounding our bodies in the present moment. Just yestderday on my walk I heard look around and I saw a dew drop glistening under the branch of a birch tree with the sun through was a moment of wonder and knowing that we live in God’s creation and that we are an intricate part of the whole. Blessings,

  • Janice Altenburger

    Thank you for this. I too resist walking but you have given me a new perspective and I, too, will begin this practice.

  • sandy

    Yes, yes, yes!!

    healing of body, mind, and spirit. That rhythm of left/right that allows the mind to quiet, the body to breathe, the Spirit to speak.

    I will be walking on many of these days, and will be remembering you in prayer as I do. And from the benediction we used in worship on Wednesday: We are traveling Home!

  • Erin

    >>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.<<
    Love this thought. Also the two stories from scripture you share. I have always been struck by the John 5 passage where Jesus poses a most unlikely, and yet practical, question that puts the choice directly on the man. He was no longer helpless and in that moment, everything–everything–changed. You can almost hear the power structures and hierarchy of the day flip upside down. I love Jesus. And thank you for this gentle reminder. We walk all day long but it is usually in a hurry to get somewhere, without thought or contemplation. One gift of (semi) retirement is be able to take time for things like walking. Thanks for these thoughts. They have "stirred the waters" of my soul.


  • Deb G

    Thanks for this insight. It really hit home. I am overweight and hate to walk. Last week, a friend who is a nurse asked if my back hurt. She said she noticed I was “waddling.” With this fresh perspective, I will be waddling through the rest of Lent.

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