One thing I love about summer is the opportunity for long walks. Beth and I have a three-mile circuit that takes us from our house down to a nearby lake and back. Usually we walk it after dinner, but before dark, with our blind dog Willy. Our nest of three sons is empty now, and so we have just this one furry kid to follow us around.
It’s not really the walk itself that I value, though. It’s what happens there. By the time we walk, Beth and I have usually taken dinnertime to catch up with one another on the day’s events, and what arrived in the mail, and what we each heard from friends or family that day.
The walk is for deeper talk. That’s when we tend to discuss longer term plans for the future, or longer view reflections on where we’ve been. We talk not just about our kids’ activities, but about their well-being and their life decisions. We talk not just about short-term purchases, but about long-term investments. We talk not just about our church routines, but about our spiritual lives.
It usually takes a while to get past perfunctory, obligatory prayers I tend to settle for when time is short.
Sometimes our local son, Caleb, and his wife, Laura, walk with us. Those are rich times. Often Laura will walk alongside Beth and engage in one conversation, while Caleb and I will pair up a few steps behind them. Sometimes the two conversations will blend, and mix, and then separate again. We all like to hear as much as possible.
But these aren’t the 10- or 20-word texts we exchange with our kids during the day. These are often significant conversations about problems, and dreams, and life decisions, and dilemmas. Long walks encourage deeper talks.
And then there are the long walks I take by myself, to have deeper talks with God. Sometimes I make time for them during the regular routine of life. But often I need a vacation or a few days off or a different setting in order to pull away.
During the regular rhythms and busyness of life, my prayer times can grow so brief, so repetitive, so lightweight. Like the chitchat of a dinner conversation or the insufficiency of a text, I can settle for such trivial communication with God. But when I walk for a while with him it’s easier to remember that he really knows and loves me in my deepest, innermost parts, and that he longs to meet me there too, and not just in the shallows of a busy life.
Over a few recent days of long walks and deep talks this summer, I remembered again that it usually takes a while just to get past the perfunctory, obligatory prayers that I tend to settle for when time is short. I know there’s nothing wrong with those prayers, just like there’s nothing wrong with catching up over dinner on the day’s activities. It’s just that there are so many more significant things to talk about. But you only seem to get there when you take the time.
This past week I walked and talked to places of deep confession, and pleading, and worship, and peace. Once the lighter weight stuff was off my chest, there were several minutes and miles of silence as I looked for the right words to tell God things I then remembered that he knows already. Yet when those words came, they were cathartic and soothing to my soul.
Long walks can lead to deep talks, with our spouses, our kids, and yes, our God. May you find time for the long walks you need this summer.
– Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.