On Walking

Take a left at the end of our driveway, and you’re headed downhill, over the railroad tresses, then up to where Edgewood Road meets the Old Highway. You’ll follow Krinning’s fence, which is so old the trees have grown up through its wires — but before you start up the hill, there’s a place where you should stop a second, just past the tracks. Krinning’s big, green gate hangs between two trees, and beyond it is a cow pond, and beyond the pond a pasture sloping upwards, and one, lone sapling bending as if under a strong wind. And if it’s a quiet afternoon, the New Highway at the crest of the pasture will be quiet, and you’ll forget it’s there— at least, I always try to.

I walk Edgewood nearly every day, and sometimes, I walk the Old Highway too. Of course, we drive it whenever we run to town, but walking is another thing. When you walk a place, you understand the land as it rises and falls under your feet, as it sprouts its underbrush and breaks open to fields. You learn the names of its streets and trees. Maybe that’s why God didn’t just grant Abraham the Promised Land, but took him for a walk through it:

“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all that land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever…

“Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you” (Gen. 13:14-15, 17).

My favorite spot along the highway is the house with the green tin roof and big garden. In summer, tomato plants, herbs, and zinnias leaf out in neat rows, and in winter, there’s firewood stacked beside the storm door. I walked past last Wednesday and the gardener had parked his little truck on the highway’s shoulder. He was splicing twigs off the trees for kindling, I guessed. Each time I’ve passed, he’s waved a big wave then turned back to his work.

The highway drops just past that place, and the fields roll down with it. Campbell owns it all, and his big house perches at the end of a white fence-lined drive. Driving by in autumn, you’ll notice baled hay dotting his front field, but I get a longer look when I walk into the valley. There’s a pond cupped at the foot of the steep field, and the way the grass and wildflowers brush the sky at the top reminds me of the prairies out at Shaw Nature Reserve— only, this grassland isn’t a half-hour’s drive away. I can walk to it from my home, and as one author said, “Home is everything you can walk to.”[i]

There’s more to tell, but you might be tired of walking. Besides, I don’t usually cover it all in a day. If I’m short on time, I’ll take a right from my driveway and go to the end of Edgewood, where the houses fall away to woods. Winter is the one time I can see through the thickets to the cows in the valley, so it’s worth the cold whistling through my clothes. Walking this place is always worth the wind and time.

Adam would have walked under the boughs and through the green fields of Eden, naming and tending things as he went. Maybe he cupped a daffodil in his hand or fingered the bark of one of the good trees. What I do know is that God himself walked through the garden he’d planted (Gen. 3:8). He knew the place— every blade and stem and stone. But more than that, he knew Adam, because he walked with Adam; and to “walk with God” is the language in the Bible for men and women who remembered what Eden was like, even after the Fall, and who longed to be close to God as his children again.

“Enoch walked with God” (Gen. 5:24).

“Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless’” (Gen. 17:1).

But things were different in the wilderness outside the garden. To really know God, his children couldn’t just walk in his wonderful shadow; they had to walk in his Law.

“You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 18:4).

They weren’t walking in a garden anymore, but a wasteland, and how could they “walk with” a God who stood at the edge of their camp in fire and smoke?

But remember that even back in Eden, it wasn’t the children who walked after God; it was God who went walking in the cool of the day, calling to his children, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). The astounding thing is not that Adam or Enoch or Abraham walked with God, but that, in the desert of their suffering, God walked with them.

“I will make my dwelling among you… And I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12).

The places I’ve walked are marked by the people I’ve walked with. Dad, Mom, and I have had soul-to-soul conversations on the shoulder of Edgewood Road. We’ve talked about ambitions and besetting sins, even as we talked about the sunset over Krinning’s pond. And then there are the walks (hundreds of them), where it’s just been God and me, and it’s funny how the landmarks sort of become altars of remembrance. The pond reminds me of that fierce sunset before the rain, which reminds me of the storm clouds of anxiety that hung over me last March. The row of honeysuckle between Nuernberger’s and Hillcrest is where I listened to a sermon on grace and broke down and begged God for more.

To walk a place is to know it better, to care for it. To walk with a person is to know them better, to care for them. 

Jesus did both when he walked our earth and did it with us (Matt. 1:23). He walked to Jerusalem. He walked in the temple. He walked by sea. He walked on the sea. He walked through the trees of Gethsemane, then left the garden to walk up Golgotha, where he felt the earth rise beneath him as the cross bore down upon him. And just then, Jesus knew the cruel shape of this wilderness like we never will, because he knew what it was like to walk without God.

Edgewood isn’t Eden, I know.

But every day, I canwalk with God” in this place, because Jesus walked out of the grave and is walking with me toward a new heaven and earth— maybe even a new Edgewood. I may as well walk the length and breadth of my home here, because I’ll be walking the highways and byways and garden pathways of my new Home with him.  

“O house of Jacob,” he calls,

“come, let us walk

in the light of the LORD.”

~ Isaiah 2:4-5

“Walk about Zion, go around her,

number her towers,

consider her ramparts,

go through her citadels,

that you may tell the next generation

that this is God,

our God forever and ever.

He will guide us forever.”

~ Psalm 48:12-14

[i] Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl (A book I’ve never read and can’t endorse, but the quote is sure good.)

9 thoughts on “On Walking

  1. Whenever I’ll be responding to emails or catching up on blog posts, I’ll often have music playing in the background, becasue I think music is so beautiful and it really does make me happy. But Bethany, whenever I read your posts, I pause my music because your words carry a beauty of there own.

    ‘The astounding thing is not that Adam or Enoch or Abraham walked with God, but that, in the desert of their suffering, God walked with them.’

    I think this sentence struck me the most from this whole post. God is… God. He is perfect and holy and He is majesty, yet He chose- he daily CHOOSES- to come down to our sinful and broken level and love us anyway. He carrys us through our valleys and dances with us on our mountain tops, even thought we could never, ever do anything to even begin to deserve this love that Love Himself has for us.

    This was, for lack of a better word… beautiful.


  2. I have such fond memories of walking on your roads with all of you, and especially with your Nanny. Thank you for reminding me of its beauty and holiness❤️


  3. What a special gift this was to read this morning. The way you give us eyes to see God in the world right where we are is beautiful – just beautiful. Thank you, Bethany 💚

    Liked by 1 person

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