Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Mechanics of Walking: Physical and Spiritual

I've been thinking about walking -- we'll be doing lots of it. It's a push-pull affair: one foot steps out, pulling the rest of the body forward, while the other foot pushes off from behind. If it were all about pulling from ahead, you'd get exhausted dragging everything else along like a dead weight. If it were all about pushing, you'd do a header on the rocks. An unconscious rhythm of pushing and pulling keeps a hiker moving forward.

Thinking about walking helped me make sense of two biblical texts that have been floating around in my head for the past week. Throughout the journey to Jerusalem and beyond, Jesus tells his disciples to "Follow me." And like cyclists following a strong leader, they draft him, careening along behind, as he pulls them forward. It's the pull of his energy that keeps them moving.

Then there's the beautiful passage from the prophet Isaiah: "And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'" (30:21). This is energy from behind, the push-off the hiker needs to move forward.

I've been amused by the difference between Isaiah's push and Jesus' pull. Considering the mechanics of walking brought them into necessary connection. The hiker in the photograph demonstrates the synergy: left leg extended pulling the body forward, right leg behind for the push-off. One seamless, unconscious movement.

This is how the body mentors the soul.

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