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Toward Wholeness Blog

Walking Carefully: The Context changes the focus

“Be careful how you walk” is what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, and a Labor Day weekend filled with walking of every sort makes the corollary truth clear too:  Different terrain calls for different ways of walking.  This is vitally important because people like Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Martin Luther, or perhaps Gandalf, were all people with the ability to adapt their walk to the terrain.  Jesus?  The ultimate in wisdom walkers, as he alternately overturns tables and turns the other cheek, speaks to the masses, and knows when a single women touched him.  Here are two skills needed for walking well:

FOCUS ON THE END:  Slacklining is the art of walking a short distance on a thin line stretched between two trees.  Learning how to do this requires a willingness to fail, to fall over and over again, because nobody – nobody – gets it right at the beginning.  As a result, who excel at this must be willing to risk and fall.  They realize that learning something new means repetition and failure and adjustment.  I’m in the early stages of learning this skill and at the beginning I count five steps without falling as a win.  Later it will be six.  Later it will be 150.  But I won’t get to 150 without a willingness to fall often, and this is true in life as well.  Refuse to risk or fall?  You’ll never achieve the life for which you are created.

The more significant observation though, is that you learn this skill by disciplining yourself to focus off in the in distance, fixing your eyes on your desired goal.  This helps your balance, gives you a sense of calm, and stabilizes your steps.  Look down at the line at your feet and you will fall every time!

We need this same capacity to focus in the distance in our daily living, because without knowing the goal, we’ll become dragged down, discouraged, and easily distracted by the thousands of things that make up our daily lives.  Commuting, laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, work, church life, date night, be amazing parents, pay your bills, climb your career ladder, invest wisely, care for your body, manage your stress, and don’t forget to love your neighbor.

It’s all a bit much at times, this ‘to do list’ that is life.  What’s helpful when overwhelmed is to look way out in the distance and see a world without war, every disease healed, every relationship reconciled, all evil cast away forever.  We’ll all be sitting at a great banquet, the likes of which our finest moments of celebration in this life can only hint at – and it will be overwhelming joy, and beauty, and peace.  This is not only where our world is headed; this is also intended to be the vision that governs our daily pursuits, so that everything that is our life is about embodying the hope of this marvelous future.

When Christ followers lose sight of this end, they’ve lost the ‘why’ of their lives, and without the why, the balancing act becomes impossible and we fall off.  I need to burn the vision of Christ’s completed reign into my head because without this hope, I’m just religious, or just running a church, something sickening like that.  We’re made for hope, and our SOURCE for hope is at the end of the line – the end of the story:  ‘behold, I’m making all things new’

FOCUS ON YOUR FEET:  Part of my weekend was spent traversing a mountain scattered with boulders and scree.  If, in such a setting, my eyes are turned anywhere other than directly down to see where I’ll place my foot next, the results will be catastrophe:  twisted ankle, or broken something, will mean there’s no way up or down without outside rescue help.  Toss in a bit of rain and some hypothermia, or a fog that cancels the search and the game’s over.  It’s because of this that the field demands we not look to the distance at all, but simply to the very next step.  Place your feet, check your traction of it’s wet.  Stand and transfer weight.  Repeat.

Most of life is like this scree field.  It’s all well and good to know that a new kingdom is waiting at the end of history, but if the toilets are dirty and we don’t change the oil in our car, it doesn’t mean much.  To live well means to look at what God has given us today and seek to do it, whatever it is, in way that displays the peace, joy, and wisdom of Christ.  That’s why there’s no sacred/secular divide – only a sacred/profane divide, and things become profane when we fail to show up, fully present to our daily lives.

A lot happened to Abraham while he was walking towards his destination and waiting for his wife to conceive.  It’s tempting to think that those days were less important than the ones at the end of the story, but they’re not.  They ARE the story.  All along the way the faith, doubt, success, failure, confession, praise, prayer, laughter, war, peace, hospitality, that constituted Abraham’s were all central to the story.  An unhealthy fixation on the final chapter of God’s story will lead to disengagement with the only chapter we have the chance to live in today, which is the present.   Step by step, most of our lives are spent doing the little things that, taken together, make for a real life.  In other words:  clean toilets, commutes, and block parties matter – so whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.

A clear vision for  the future and a commitment to being totally present in the million steps of daily living is exactly what’s needed if we’re to enjoy the fruitful and abundant life for which we’re created.

Dreamers need to get grounded in taking clear next steps.  Practical people need to gaze into the distance and remember the why of it all.  Future and Present are vital.  Which is your greatest challenge?

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