During God Focus recently, Ros continued sharing by building on the previous week’s theme: the unforced rhythms of grace. She led us in reflection on a poem by Michael Leunig in which we read the words, “We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing.” This opening line is a prayer of recognition that we are in need of continuing formation.
The key image Leunig uses is that of travel by foot along a footpath, rather than on a highway. Leunig reminds us that, “nothing can be loved at speed.” These are words that call us to reconsider our priorities and to remember that we are created beings living in the company of other created beings. This image of walking in the company of each other reminded me of Genesis 3:8, from which we learn that God walked in the garden and met Adam and Eve there. Eugene Peterson in The Message, I think, emphasises the relational aspect of this walking by using the term ‘strolling’ to describe God’s coming to the garden in the cool of the day.
Leunig’s prayer imagines not only the slower pace of walk side-by-side, but also a footpath along which we travel.
Two images immediately came to my mind as Ros shared: one was of a simple path in Papua winding its way over a river bed and into the forest of Mt Cyclops above Sentani; the other was of Brisbane traffic and the new tunnels that provide a way to blast past the above ground delays during peak hour. The first image is an earthen path showing its age in its deep rutting; the other image is a twenty-first century engineering marvel. One enables conversation with fellow travellers as well as with any unexpected people we meet along the way. The other helps us get places quickly, and even maintains handsfree phone conversations as we hurtle headlong under the city, but in complete indifference to our fellow travellers. Two very different paces of life. Two very different ways to relate to ourselves and others.
Now I have nothing against improving city infrastructures (especially if it involves improving public transport) and I do like Brisbane’s impressive tunnels. But I observe that the advertising and justification for these projects is about speed, about increasing efficiency, and inevitably, the hypothetical dollars that can be saved as a result. Tunnels are a convenience, but also a reflection of the values of the contemporary city. As someone said at God Focus, we know all about road rage, but footpath rage doesn’t really seem to be a thing. There is something to be said for travelling at the speed of love.
In years of bushwalking here and abroad, I have had some of my most significant and powerful conversations and relationship-forming moments as I travelled by foot. I have also been a runner over many years, but the relationships that formed through running were not formed during the focus and pain of a race, but in the time before and after training or events. Running is a great way to get places fast, but it isn’t the speed for relationships.
This metaphor also holds true for partnerships in ministry and with language communities – if the goal is to foster relationships, establish lasting work, and journey with the other; it is walking – walking alongside, that can provide a way of knowing and being, that is fruitful and blessed.
Blessings on your week – may you have opportunity to walk – with our Father and alongside others. ~Graham
© Graham and Ellie Scott