When was the last time you felt your soul walk? Our minds and bodies are moving farther and faster than ever today, but the most significant aspects of human life cannot be rushed. Hearts can be stubbornly slow. Prayer is often slow. Meditation is slow. Growth is slow. Love is slow, sometimes painfully so. From the beginning, our souls were made to walk with God, at his pace.
Many of us, however, have forgotten how to walk. We’re so used to driving, scrolling, and skimming that slow seems not only inefficient and impractical, but almost immoral. We feel guilty for walking. While I commute to work, covering a dozen miles in just minutes, operating the marvelous and dangerous miracle that is my Honda Civic, I sometimes get restless that I’m not getting more done — that I’m not checking email, or refreshing a feed, or listening to a podcast. Some text and drive, despite how maddening and unloving that is, in part because driving surely can’t be a sufficiently productive use of time. We’re held hostage by hurry.
“To really live — to know, enjoy, and follow Jesus — we need to learn and keep a pace that is human.”
We’ve been made to believe, by the patterns and course of this world, that hurry is a virtue. But what if hurry was actually oppressing us — distracting us, stunting us, even scheming against us? “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day,” the late Dallas Willard said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life” (The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, 19). To really live — to know, enjoy, and follow Jesus — we need to learn and keep a pace that is human. In other words, we need to learn to walk again.
Faster Than God?
Why do we talk about walking with Jesus? Well, because when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, he walked everywhere he went. Anyone who decided to follow him literally walked where he walked. Think about that. Imagine just how much Jesus could have accomplished with a car, a smartphone, and an Internet connection.
But when the Son of God came, he walked, and he walked, and he walked. He slowed down to hold children. He slowed down to visit with strangers. On his way to save a 12-year-old girl who was dying, he slowed down and stopped on the way to heal a desperate older woman (Luke 8:40–48). He slowed down to pray — sometimes for hours at a time. Even though he often didn’t have a comfortable place to lay his head, he slowed down to sleep. He lived the greatest, fullest, most fruitful life ever lived, and he never felt what it was like to move even 25 miles an hour. His days were full, far beyond most of ours, and yet he never seemed hurried.
So why are we in such a hurry?
I felt this tension acutely when the pandemic began. Events were canceled. Work was remote. Social gatherings were discouraged. Schedules were suddenly wiped clear. And yet I continued to feel busy, scattered, restless — as if my heart couldn’t slow down to reality. I felt behind when I wasn’t, rushed when I didn’t need to be, and guilty when I hadn’t done anything wrong. Life had slowed to a crawl, but I was still in a hurry. I believe one of the many good purposes God had in the hardships of the last two years was to break some of us, including me, from hurry. We were made to walk.
Walk by the Spirit
Have you noticed how often God himself calls the faithful Christian life a “walk”?
- “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
- “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
- “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2).
- “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10).
- “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5).
In short, we “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). We embrace the uncomfortably slow pace of being human, of having relationships, of meeting with God.
Yes, the apostle Paul ran the race set before him (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 2:16), but even then, it was the patient and deliberate pace of a lifelong marathon, not the force of a fifty-yard dash. To seize on his running, while ignoring his repeated emphasis on walking, is to read our modern frenzy into his vision for life and ministry.
Make Friends with Finitude
Healthy people make friends with finitude. John Mark Comer writes,
We’re not God. We’re mortal, not immortal. Finite, not infinite. Image and dust. Potential and limitations. One of the key tasks of our apprenticeship to Jesus is living into both our potential and our limitations. (Hurry, 63)
Some of us need to be reminded that, as humans, we are spectacular creatures, made in the image of God and given unparalleled ability and opportunity to influence the eternities of others. The potential of any human life, of your life, cannot be quantified or contained. Others of us, however, need to be reminded that, as humans, we are inescapably limited — that as fallen people in a fallen world, our finitude really is part of our glory, because his power is not only made known through our abilities, but made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When we learn to walk with God, our capacities for love and worship will outshine everything else in creation, but our walking — slow, weak, finite — will also show “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Gait of Love
Slow on its own, it should be said, does not mean healthy. Redeemed humans do not just slow down to walk, but walk by the Spirit. Again, Paul says,
You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. . . . Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:13, 16)
In other words, we don’t slow down and walk to serve ourselves — our desires, our hobbies, our dreams, our comfort. We don’t slow down mainly as some kind of self-help strategy. We slow down so that we can love, first God and then others. We slow down to be more available to the people we meet — body, mind, heart, and ears — as Jesus was.
We slow down to be a more attentive spouse, a more intentional roommate and friend, a more patient parent, a more engaged neighbor, a more faithful disciple of Jesus. We find the measured gait of love. And as we do, we know that walking in love will not typically be easy or comfortable, but often hard and strenuous — a slow, uphill battle for the next step.
If we are walking well, though, the slower pace helps us resist the desires of the flesh, not gratify them. We leave room for interruptions, and we make room for rest, knowing that God uses regular rest to unleash a freer and more durable love.
When to Hurry
We were not made to hurry, except perhaps to rescue those in immediate danger, and one other great exception.
When Jesus met a man burdened by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of life, he did not encourage him to take his time: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). Leave your hurried life behind, Zacchaeus. Stop frantically chasing peace and happiness elsewhere. Come to me, and hurry. Don’t walk, but run. The next verse says, “So [Zacchaeus] hurried and came down and received him joyfully” (Luke 19:6).
“For all the ways we are prone to hurry, how many of us still hurry into the presence of Jesus?”
In the same way, when the shepherds heard that the promised Christ had come, “they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). They didn’t slow down, or take the scenic route, but hurried to find Jesus. The path where hurry is healthy is the one that leads us further into his life, his heart, his cross, his throne.
For all the ways we are prone to hurry, how many of us still hurry into the presence of Jesus? As strangely captive as we can be to our deadlines, headlines, and notifications, we can be just as strangely reluctant to sit and meet with the King of the universe — to hear him in his word, to cast our cares upon him in prayer, to savor the wonder and privilege of being his.
So, as you come to him, the Son who walked among us, by all means hurry. And let his voice slowly free you from hurry, from a pace of life that prevents love. Let your soul learn to walk again.