Tuesday, July 1, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 1 - “Barefoot in the Park” - June 29, 2008

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God
as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
Genesis 3:8 NIV

As a child, I rarely wore shoes, unless social expectations required it of me. I had my saddle shoes for school, shiny, black, patent leather church shoes, and well worn, dirty Keds for play, all of which I kicked off whenever I could. “Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and can symbolize a way of living—being authentic, vulnerable, sensitive to our surroundings,” states Adele Coombs, author of Barefoot Dreaming

I wonder what our Heavenly Father’s footsteps sounded like to Adam and Eve when they heard him approaching, in the cool of the day. And I wonder what our great-great-greats’ footsteps sounded like to God. I bet God could hear Adam running swiftly, and Eve skipping playfully, toward him, in eager anticipation of a daily hike with their divine Walking Buddy. After they disobeyed God, did Adam and Eve tiptoe around, walking on eggshells, trying to avoid him?

Imagine having actually walked with God on a daily basis, and then losing this privilege. The concept of “walking with God” permeates the Biblical record, threading its way through the Old and New Testaments, like a well worn, familiar trail. In the Garden of Eden, and again when Jesus walked the earth, human beings were blessed with face to face encounters with God. For most of us, though, our walking with God is metaphorical in nature.

As I have mentioned many times, I feel closest to God when I am surrounded by lofty trees, birdsong and the heady fragrance of moist earth. Many of my writer-walking buddies recognize and experience the holiness and healing power of walking:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits,” said Henry David Thoreau, “ unless I spend four hours a day at least, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and field.”

Raymond Inmon advises, “if you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.”

“In the woods we return to reason and faith,” mused Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And my very favorite quote comes from Joseph Campbell: “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, ‘Ah!’”

These nature lovers “see” God in nature. While I believe that nature provides sacred space in which to encounter God, I also believe that God willingly walks with us wherever we are. When we’re caught up in the rat race of life, God is there jogging beside us. When we are wearily lugging groceries out to the parking lot, our minds a million miles away, worrying about this and that, God is there, pushing the shopping cart with its squeaky, wobbly wheels. When we’re pacing the halls of the hospital as a loved one undergoes surgery, he is there. Whether you’re hobbling or hoofing it; mucking or gadding about; knock-kneed or pigeon-toed; limping or leaping; barefoot or booted; taking your very first step or have one foot in the grave, God is right there with you.

I think it was God’s intent for us to live a barefooted life—a life of pure authenticity, shameless vulnerability and exquisite sensitivity, like that referred to above by Adele Coombs. We were created to live in God’s presence, naked and unashamed, to walk shoulder to shoulder with none other than God. Wow!

The very first thing we learn about God from the Bible is that he is THE creator. The author of Genesis takes great care in detailing all that God fashioned. He created flora and fauna, rivers and mountains, not air conditioned buildings, with windows from which to view his creation. Perhaps this is why I go to the woods to hang out with my Walking Buddy. While I don’t go barefooted on these treks, I do think my walks with God give me a delicious taste of living a spiritually barefooted life.

Someday, we will know the joy of face to face intimacy with God, known heretofore only in Eden. How heavenly that will be!
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV

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