One of my biggest challenges living with my particular medical disorder is the struggle to walk. It’s not that my legs are weak – I once kicked a volleyball over a tennis court fence – but that they are hard to coordinate. At best, it’s like driving a car where everything works except the steering wheel (and sometimes the brakes). At worst, it’s like walking on a boat in the middle of a thunderstorm.
This problem especially affects one of my favorite activities – playing with my horse, Ginger. Years ago, I discovered that I could lead her on my own in our training pen, whose footing was firm and mostly smooth. However, as time passed and my condition worsened, my mom had to help me. Now, unless there are two people available to help, I use a power chair.
One phrase the Bible uses to describe someone with a personal relationship with God is “s/he walked with God”. The Psalmists talk about God leading and providing His people with firm, open spaces in which to walk freely. Jesus’ invitation to His first disciples was, “Follow Me.”
I thought about this recently while working with Ginger. I have only led her from my wheelchair a few times so far, but because she has practiced with me so much while I was on my feet, she leads like we have done this for many years. Old creaky joints and beckoning green pasture aside, she follows willingly with her head beside my chair and stops with her front feet exactly beside me. I trust her and see that she trusts me enough to do this.
Similarly, walking with Jesus is stepping out with three things:
To walk together, Ginger and I must leave whatever we are doing and then make the effort to keep up with each other. Similarly, a walk with Jesus involves intention. Jesus took the first step by coming to earth as a baby and by later dying on the cross for our sins. Our first step comes when we confess our belief in Jesus and accept Him as our Savior. When we do this, we allow Him to take the lead rope of our lives and take our first steps in the direction of His leading. We agree not just to let Him into our space, but to let Him move us and make us. And when He steps away from us, we seek Him out.
Leading and following require attention. When I lead Ginger, I am “all there” with her, alert to her every expression so I can understand her and communicate effectively. She is able to stop so precisely because she is watching me moment by moment. This not only helps us operate effectively and safely, but allows us to more fully enjoy each other’s presence. Similarly, we grow in our walk with Jesus by being “all there” with Him – praying frequently, studying the Bible regularly, spending time with fellow Christians, and seeking ways to honor Him in our lives. We don’t have to join a monastery or become a pastor or missionary – rather, we simply seek ways to learn about who God is, communicate with Him, witness His action in our experiences, and apply His teachings and promises to our everyday situations.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, walking with Jesus involves trust. Trust that He leads us only where He Himself is willing and able to go. Trust that He is beside us, with His hand on us and His eyes on where we are going. Trust that any scary or strange objects we encounter – or that He is using – are under His control. Trust that difficulty and pain will not kill us spiritually. Trust that our journey is not just for our good but for a purpose, even if we can’t comprehend what that purpose is or how our experiences fit into it.
Sometimes I put myself in Ginger’s place and imagine Jesus holding the lead rope. A strange world. What is He thinking? What does He want? Where are we going?
A horse can’t understand everything from their human’s point of view. But one thing we can know of Jesus – and I hope Ginger knows this of me – is that He wants to walk with us. All we need to do is follow.
That can mean leaving our pasture, stepping onto unknown and difficult terrain, facing real and imagined dangers, learning new things and unlearning old ones. It has cost many people their homes, families, dreams, and lives. But this is a Leader who, in the words of Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV):
“being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
I can’t imagine a better walking partner.
What are some practical steps you can take to grow in your walk with Jesus? How can you appreciate God’s presence in your life?