I recently wrote about a hike I went on with my mentor in Northern Hungary. That’s a rarity. However, modern day technology allows us to walk together almost once a week. Although I live in Croatia and he’s in the U.S. we manage to simultaneously walk while talking on Tuesday evenings–he in the peaceful Virginia woods near his house, me on the streets of Zagreb.
Though he and I have talked weekly for more than 7 years, walking while talking is a relatively new thing. I’ve noticed it has boosted our conversations. Of course, one of the reasons is because as we walk we release endorphins which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. An hour long walk by myself would already be healthy.
But I think there’s more to it than that.
The Bible often uses the word ‘walking’ to describe a person or people who live according to God’s ways. Take the scene when Solomon is finished dedicating the temple, for example. He finishes his benediction in front of Israel this way: “Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments…” (I Kings 8:61, emphasis mine).
The New Testament picks up on the idea of walking. Paul says that we ought to “…walk in love as Christ loved us…” (Eph. 5:2). John, in his first letter, writes that “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way he walked.” (I Jn 2:6). Without doing a comprehensive study of the biblical concept, it seems as if ‘walking’ refers to the way one lives their whole life. In the Old Testament, walking means commitment to the law; in the New, it refers to dedication to the one who fulfilled the Law.
The other day, our time difference was only 5 hours (rather than 6) because the U.S. had sprung forward but Croatia hadn’t yet. That evening, my mentor was finishing his walk as I began mine. It really wasn’t a big deal. He chopped vegetables and did other stuff around the house while I walked. We still had a good conversation. But it helped me understand the reason why I’ve noticed that walking together improves disciple making conversations.
Walking is an actual activity (not just symbolic) that when done together often reduces external distractions while requiring each person to exert energy therefore curtailing internal distractions.
Free of these potential minor interruptions, conversations naturally occur at a higher level. They’re cleaner, in a sense. Drinking coffee together, something I do very often with friends, has inherent disturbances that walking doesn’t. Driving, another context for quality conversations, isn’t active. My proposal is that walking together is the best possible activity for disciple making conversations.
I don’t want to overstate this. There are times when walking together doesn’t automatically make a conversation more productive or encouraging. There are many instances when it’s not practical. Drinking coffee is still a great way to ask questions and get to know each other.
Still, I’ve tested this theory numerous times with those I mentor and have close friendships with and have found that it holds true. It would seem that growing closer to our Lord often happens while walking–whether metaphorically or literally. What is your experience?