Some close family friends of ours faced the inevitable passage of the empty nest syndrome. Their testimony is that after a few weeks of mourning they discovered the joys of walking together. Indeed, they began to hike! Their hiking has led them to new discoveries and new ways of living.
The Christian life, also, begins for many with a crisis, but eventually smoothes out into a longer walk. It is rarely, for most of us, a sprint or even a marathon run, but more of a very long walk with God through this world.
Paul uses the metaphor of walking a great deal, more than 25 times in his letters to the churches. Since we do so much walking, we need to be careful how we walk lest we walk into a bad path or walk in such a way as we hurt ourselves or others.
St. Paul told us to be careful about the way that we walked. In Ephesians 5:15-16 and Colossians 4:5-6, the great Apostle says that we should be careful how we walk:
“Look carefully, then, how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”
Our walk is our really our follower-ship, our discipleship, our life as a subject in the Kingdom of God as a servant of King Jesus. How we live is a testimony to life in the Kingdom. Our lives alone are never the final Word. We must preach with words, with the Gospel that Christ taught us. But our lives are the living illustration of the Gospel. Let the illustration be clear to those who are not believers.
To walk in wisdom is, also, to cultivate Gospel “shrewdness” about the presentation of the Gospel in this present evil age. Remember that Jesus said:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthews 10:16 ESV).
Walking in wisdom is not trickery nor cunning, but what my old ball coach used to call, “sanctified common sense. “
In both of these passages, the matter of time is brought up by Paul. Here is the thing: Watching your walk is not wasting time, but redeeming it. When one is busy with even the best of activities, even Gospel ministry, but paying no heed to one’s own soul, that is a waste of time. God would rather that you slow down your activity level and return to a walking pace that does not “run past” your practice of holiness. Your holiness of life is grounded in love, fear, and reverence. And this holiness gives your strength as well as vision for the journey ahead. So paying attention to your own soul is never a waste of time. Nor is it in any way selfish. It is life-giving for your family, your neighbor, and for the Church and central to the Great Commission.
You have been called to walk with God. Take time today to take inventory of yourself before beginning another day’s journey. Remember your destination. Remember why you are walking and with whom you are walking. In this way you will “… keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).