Time to Take a Walk
April 23, 2020
Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem . . .
I spend time each day reading or listening to those whose expertise might help make sense of what’s happening. I’m learning just enough to be dangerous. It's so tempting to universalize my latest revelation and rush to share with everyone I know the article or webinar that just spoke to me.
The sheer volume of information and opinion coming toward us can be overwhelming. A friend and I shared a laugh last week over our FOMO (fear of missing out) on social media. There’s so much to listen to and watch and read.
Then again, maybe it’s time to take a walk.
Have you noticed how many are out walking these days? For those who are able, walking is good for us. Evolutionarily speaking, we’re well-equipped for walking, with long, straight hind limbs that aren’t so great for climbing trees, but are excellent for holding our heads high to take in far horizons.
Walking helps clear our thinking. “Never lose your desire to walk,” the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once counseled a friend. “Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being. I walk myself into my best thoughts.“
Walking is one way for us to hold and release all that we’re going through now. In one of his most famous poems, William Butler Yeats writes, “I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head.” I can relate to that. Yeats then points to the possibility of mystical conversation: “I went to blow the fire aflame, but something rustled on the floor, and someone called me by my name.” Walking as a prayer practice unites body and soul. Then we can hear God’s voice with astonishing clarity.
Should you join a virtual Episcopal Church worship service this weekend, you’ll hear a famous story about two of Jesus’ disciples taking a walk on the first Easter morning. Upon hearing the news from the women of their community that Jesus’ tomb was empty and they had seen him alive, these two responded by getting up and walking out of the city. This was no casual stroll. They were traumatized by the events culminating in Jesus’ crucifixion, and his resurrection as yet meant nothing to them.They were walking through the debris of their shattered world to no destination in particular.
The story is known as the Road to Emmaus because that’s where we’re told the disciples were going, but no one knows where the village of Emmaus lay. Nor are we given a reason for their journey, although it’s easy to surmise. There was a fire in their heads, grief in their hearts, and they needed to walk. I know that feeling.
On the Emmaus road, Jesus meets the disciples and walks with them. He comes in the form of a stranger and they don’t recognize him. As they walk, Jesus listens to their story of disappointment and grief: “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.” He then speaks to them through the Scriptures, and they feel the power of his presence through the words. He waits to be invited to join them further. Then at the table, he takes bread, blesses, breaks, and gives it to them, and at that moment, they recognize him. It doesn’t seem to bother the disciples that he disappears. I suspect they sensed it was a mystical encounter all along.
We’re all walking the Emmaus Road now, moving from where we’ve been to where life is leading us. No matter how we experience or interpret what’s happening now and what lies ahead; no matter how we may feel on a given day, what we can be assured of is that Christ is with us. We hope for a better day, and pray for that day to come. For now, we’re walking on the road. Take heart that you do not walk alone.
I’m still reading and listening to others who can help make sense of things and point us toward the future, and I’ll pass along the best of what I learn. I hope you’ll do the same. I’ll try to remember to place some caveats around my offering, so that you might filter it through your experience, or if the last thing you need is more information, to ignore it.
But whenever you can, or feel you simply must, relish the gift of taking a walk (or a run or bike ride or sitting outside). Allow the many voices in your head to quiet, including mine, so that you might hear the One who calls you by your name.
(1) Quoted in The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred (San Francisco, CA; Canari Press,1998)
(2) Yeats, W. B. The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats (New York; Collier Books, 1983)