"For us let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place where God wants us, and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results."
-- Abbé Monchanin

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Walk On

Did you ever dream you could fly?

Soar high above the earth?

Float and swoop effortlessly above the hills and the valleys?

I used to dream that I could do a kind of breast stroke that caused me to glide through the air. I read somewhere that the dream of flying is one of the most common kinds of dreams.

Right up there with running from trains.


And being naked in public.

It must be an old and widespread dream. Remember the old greek story of Daedelus and Icarus who made wings of feathers and wax and flew too close to the sun?

I’ve forgotten what the experts said the significance of flying dreams is, but the dream does give a feeling of freedom and power and great joy.

We talk of our spirits “soaring” when we’re elated.

We’re “soaring along” when everything is going right in our lives.

There’s a beauty in the sight of a bird soaring high above with no flapping of wings. Just a smooth gliding across the sky. I’ve seen birds catch the wind just right, so that from the ground, they appeared perfectly motionless. It was beautiful.

The prophet Isaiah uses this imagery to talk of
our relationship with God:

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31(NIV)

“They will soar on wings like eagles.” Isn’t that a good description of the feelings of a new Christian? When you first put your hope in the LORD, your strength was renewed and you seemed to soar up above all the problems of life here in the rat race.

Things were right.

God was in charge.

You were safe and confident and tireless.

Most of us would like life to stay that way. Jesus’ closest disciples felt like that. Remember the story of when Jesus went up the mountain with James, John and Peter? Moses and Elijah appeared to them and Jesus was transfigured so that his face shone like the sun. Peter wanted to pitch camp and stay there.

A friend in Zimbabwe was grading Religious Knowledge papers for secondary students’ final exams. One of the questions required the students to tell this story. Our friend came laughing and read one student’s final sentence. After thoroughly describing the event, the student wrote, “This is usually known as the mount of refrigeration.”

Transfiguration, refrigeration, either word is a mouthful. The disciples were soaring on wings like eagles. They hoped in the LORD in the midst of a spectacular spiritual encounter with God. We’re the same way. I’ve had friends who wanted to become
evangelists because they wanted the thrill of Billy Graham style crusades every day. They wanted to keep soaring.

Some people take a short mission trip and have a great experience seeing God at work. They have a time of soaring. They want to keep repeating the experience.

There’s a time to soar.

There’s also a time to run.

Running isn’t quite as dramatic as soaring, but it, too, can be beautiful. I’m not talking about the slow motion close-ups of the faces of world class sprinters at the Olympics where you see their eyes bulging and their lips flapping. But the grace of a long stride and steady rhythmic movement of a good runner is a work of art.

We run more than we soar.

We run to work.

We run to school.

We run to the market.

We run to church.

We run to meetings.

We finally run home.

We wake up running and at the end of the day we go to bed with our legs still churning. We can identify with the words the Red Queen says to Alice in Through the Looking Glass:

Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in he same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

Running tires, but also refreshes. Running can also give a “rush” to the runner, if he makes it past the “wall” of pain in long distance runs. There comes a time when we get our “second wind” and can do things beyond what we thought possible.

We usually talk about soaring when we study this verse. We promise others that if they’ll just “hope in the LORD,” or as some translations say, “wait on the LORD,” they will soar.

Soaring is exciting.

Running is graceful.

Walking is so . . .


Walking is unglamorous.

Did you ever see the walking race in the Olympics? Race walking is ugly. It’s awkward. It looks painful. It’s extremely tiring.

For most of us walking is a last resort. We walk when we don’t have a car and the bus drivers are on strike.

When our bicycle is broken.

When we’re poor and insignificant.

Walking is slow.

Running gets you somewhere faster.

Soaring gets you there fastest.

But there are times when we don’t soar.

There are times when we can’t run.

There are times when it’s all we can do to walk. When we’re tired and weak, walking is the best we can do.

John Claypool was one of Baptists’ leading preachers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He knew what it was to soar in the pulpit. Then his ten year-old daughter was stricken by leukemia. He tirelessly ran everywhere seeking whatever prayer or other means of healing might save her. Finally, as he could only sit and hold her hand as her life slipped away, he made these observations regarding this last part of Isaiah 40:31:

Now I am sure that to those looking for the spectacular this may sound insignificant indeed. Who wants to be slowed to a walk, to creep along inch by inch, just barely above the threshold of consciousness and not fainting? That may not sound like much of a religious experience, but believe me, in the kind of darkness where I have been, it is the only form of the promise that fits the situation. When there is no occasion to soar and no place to run, and all you can do is trudge along step by step, to hear of a Help that will enable you to “walk and not faint” is good news indeed.

There are some places we have to walk.

Places where we can’t soar.

Places where we can’t run.

Places where we need this good news.

It’s interesting that Psalm 23 doesn’t say, “Yea, though I soar over the valley of death.”

It doesn’t say, “Yea, though I run through the valley of death.”

It says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, thou art with me.”

It is as we walk in the depth of the valley of death that the presence of God and the protection of His rod and staff becomes real to us. When we walk through the valley of death, it is only God’s presence that gets us through.

I think it would be safe to say that most of us seldom soar.

We do some running.

We spend a lot of time walking.

Often, for a lot of us walking is a major accomplishment. We can’t identify with the imagery of soaring on wings of eagles. We feel more like we’re being preyed upon by hungry eagles.

We not only can’t find the energy to run, we no longer even want to run. The things that have had us running no longer seem important.

We’re ready to quit.

Drop out.

Go to bed and not wake up.

If we saw a big truck coming at us as we crossed the street, we wouldn’t even try to dodge.

We’re past tired.

We’re ready to faint.

Isaiah’s message is for us, the walkers.

Those who hope in the LORD will walk and not grow faint. We can make it through the valley.

God does not promise that we’ll always soar or even run.

He does promise to be with us, comfort us and protect us as we walk.

Remember what God said to Jacob as he fled from Esau?

“I will be with you.”

Remember what Joseph discovered in Egypt, even in prison?

God was with him.

What did God promise Moses when he sent him to risk his life challenging pharaoh?

“I will be with you.”

Jesus is known as Emanuel. What does Emanuel mean? "God with us."

I remember when I was in high school. There was a song made popular by Gerry and the Pacemakers, I think. People argued whether it could be sung in church or not. Listen to the song’s words:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho' your dreams Be tossed and blown
Walk on..
Walk on..
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

If the hope in our hearts is hope in the LORD, we can boldly sing this song as a hymn anywhere. We don’t walk through the valley alone. Those who hope in the LORD never walk alone.

They walk with God . . .

and never faint.

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31 [NIV]

Soar when you can.

Run when you must.

But always . . .

Hope in the LORD and . . .

Walk on!


Kiakahi said...

Right on! Thank you for this wonderful message. I used portions of it the other night in choir rehearsal to encourage our members' recollection of God's presence with us while we WALK in the valleys of our lives. Powerful, comforting imagery.

Also enjoyed your reference to "You'll Never Walk Alone," from the musical Carousel, I believe, by Rodgers and Hammerstein. A few decades ago, that song was a popular choice in my high school choir, and the text has stuck with me ever since. In the movie, it's sung by the character played by Shirley Jones. Her husband is tragically killed, and she sings it at his funeral, if I remember correctly.

Thanks again. Your messages are inspirational. WALK ON!

Tauratinzwe said...

Thanks for the info on "You'll Never Walk Alone." I never saw Carousel but remember how popular the song was when it broke away from the musical stage. The context you described from the show makes it even more poignant to me.

Les said...

Wonderful post. I feel greatly blessed in having got to know you. You have encouraged me greatly. As one who knows the need to walk through the valley and also of God's companionship on that journey, thank you.