Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead
Walk beside me and just be my friend
Have you ever been asked the question- how is your walk with God? What exactly does that mean? How does one even answer that question? Fine thanks, and yours? It’s a well-intentioned question, as the Christian life is often referred to as a walk or a journey. A walk or journey is a good metaphor because life doesn’t stand still, it moves forward whether we like it or not.
This thought leads me to consider where I see God as being on this walk of life with me. I have to confess, I’m not one who can sense the Presence of God consistently. I believe by faith but don’t necessary feel like God is with me all the time. If I picture life being like a path through the woods, and I am walking along that path, I wish I could say that I always feel like God is walking right there beside me. But I don’t. Quite honestly, there are times that I have felt God is way up in front somewhere. I know He’s there but I really can’t see him and the pathway isn’t so clear. It feels frustrating because I can’t get where he is. I imagine my 5’2 daughter in law often feels this way when she’s trying to walk with her 6’2 husband, her 5’9 mom in law and 5’8 sister in law! Her little legs just don’t walk at our speed and we have to intentionally slow down to walk with her. Sometimes I feel like that with God. Like hey- I’m little back here, please walk with me because if feels like I’m walking alone here.
At times on my journey I have plopped myself down in the middle of the path and refused to move- the adult equivalent of a 2 years old temper tantrum. More often than not, it’s because of hopelessness, confusion, or exasperation. I simply get stuck where I am and don’t have the will at that moment to keep moving, especially when I can’t clearly see what’s ahead. At these times I can picture God actually taking hold of my arms and pulling me on down the path. Or he gets behind me and pushes me. Other times he lets me stay there for a while and even sits down beside me to take in the scenery. Never for too long though.
For me personally, I have most often pictured God up above the path, like cosmically hovering over me, giving me directions. Sometimes speaking, other times shouting, or simply clearly the path before me or putting obstacles in the path to direct me another way. God’s good that way. The Bible is clear that he gives us wisdom and directs our paths. I’m thankful for this. But this view seems more like a walk from God than a walk with God. Kind of like a coach giving direction from the sidelines. Our obedience to God is clearly expected, the Bible places importance on obeying the written directive in his word and the specific directions for our lives. But I’ve come to realize that there can (and should) be more to our relationship with God than him giving orders and us obeying them. We are called to serve God, he is the master, we are the servants. He directs, we obey. It’s completely possible to successfully relate to God this way and do a lot of good in the world. But if that is the only way that we relate to God, we are missing an element. Servants can be useful to the master without ever having a personal relationship with them.
Jesus clarifies the difference between the two for us: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”. John 15:15
Servant just obey, friends understand. There is a level of intimacy in friendship that is not present with a servant. Servants can fear their master and of course, we are to have a healthy fear of God. I mean he is the creator of the universe! But I am convinced that this is not all God wants for us. He doesn’t want us to serve or relate to him through fear but rather from love. When we relate to someone out of love rather than out of fear, it’s a whole different relationship. This has been somewhat of a challenge for me. For someone who has been fear-based for most of her life, being love-based looks completely different. It’s not all about God instructing, me obeying any longer. It is more of a working alongside to do something. Relationship isn’t about one demanding and the other obeying. Relationship talks and reasons together. This has been a revolutionary adjustment for me. God is walking in this mess of a life with me rather than just shouting instruction to me from the heavenlies.
Since I grew up as an only child, I spent a huge amount of time with books. One of my favorites was called Walk Beside Me and Be My Friend, which is where I found the poem above. This idea of “walking beside” took root in me and became the longing of my heart. Both to have someone walk with me and for me to walk with others along their journeys. Too often though, we not only feel that God isn’t walking beside us but also feel that no one else is either. This isn’t necessarily because we don’t have any friends. Often times it’s because we don’t want to burden the friends that we have. We hate to show that we don’t have it altogether or are struggling with something. We don’t want to appear weak or are ashamed that we aren’t the perfect Christian. So we keep things inside.
I once heard the question- who could I talk to in your circle of people that knows how you are REALLY doing right now? For far too many of us, the answer is no one. My encouragement today is twofold- if you feel that you are walking down life’s path alone right now, please reach out. Both to God and to someone in your circle. Inviting God and humans to share in your world, however messy it may be at the moment, is authentic Christianity. Secondly, look around as you walk through your path of life. You may be the only “friend” that someone encounters on their journey at this time.