So I began walking as my primary Lenten practice; one day it was my labyrinth, a few times it was around my neighborhood. I parked as far away in the parking lot from the door of my destination, reminding myself that the goal was the walking, the practice itself. Then it struck—the respiratory infection that had been lurking at the door burst into my body with a vengeance, replete with fever, headache, and general miseries. The weather outside was miserable too; what would happen to my walking practice for Lent?
In one of the places that the Christian scripture talks about walking which is living (see last week’s blog), I am challenged to “walk in newness of life.” (Rom.5:8). I mulled that idea over in my laid up condition, went back to the section of the text from which it came, and saw that the mandate was one that came out of a reflection on baptism. The text for the first Sunday of Lent was the Baptism of Jesus, and among the many things we learn from that story in Mark 1:9-15 is that Jesus in his human form demonstrates that we are beloved of God, that whatever setbacks or brokenness within us to divert us, they do not have the power to overcome the loving power of the Holy One who calls us Beloved. So after missing two days of the Lenten Walk, I began again, tentatively at first, just around my back yard labyrinth. And prayer that I would be walking in newness of life.
It is no accident that Lent coincides mostly with Spring. Even here in “sunny” Southern California, there are sign of Spring. As I walked, after the lapse, the illness, the winds and weather, I noticed the first Spring rose has bloomed, the Babcock peace tree is flowering, and a new (I think) hummingbird has taken up resident in the yard somewhere, dancing fancily over wires and trees and azaleas. I remembered how there might have been a time in my life in which I had come up against a block that kept me from “succeeding” in a Lenten practice or spiritual discipline, at which point I would have said, pouting, “See, I just can’t do it! I am such a failure!” Walking in newness of life means that I can start again, even with a lapse, even with illness, because I am continually loved and sustained on the Lenten journey, in my life.
I was also mindful as I tried to practice walking in newness of life of those for whom walking at all is a challenge–those whose bodies keep them from easily walking or walking at all, those who endure long hours of physical and occupational and physical therapy in rehab. They too walk/live in Spirit, in newness of Life, in a different modality. In reading The Spirited Walker by Carolyn Scott Kortge, I met Susan Freisinger who sits is a wheelchair and strolls through her memories “to recapture the magic of walks she can no longer take…She lifts her arm and circles a hand in front of her, carving smooth rotations in the air. Walking felt like that, she says.” (p.130).
So I continue walking/living, not bound by what did not work earlier in the week, not limited by what my history or previous life told me was dangerous about walking. And I am walking to be God’s presence in the world where Teresa of Avila says, “God has no feet but our feet.” And I am looking— for the new things the Spirit is doing: what is budding? what is blooming? what is dancing in God’s world for God’s sake?