Throughout this year, I have been a part of an online community called the Daily Audio Bible. It is a podcast of Brian Hardin reading through the Bible with an accompanying website and message boards. DAB has been a part of my daily routine for half a year now.
Today, the DAB took part in a community event - the Long Walk. Everyone was encouraged to go somewhere beautiful and take a long walk with God. As soon as Brian suggested it on a podcast a few weeks ago, I knew I was going to participate. Something about taking a long walk connected with me. I think it has to do with Camp BaYouCa where I grew up hearing about "taking a walk in the woods with Jesus."
So that's exactly what I did today, heading out to walk the 5.5 mile trail around Lake Fayetteville.
I needed this time. It has been a long time since I took a long walk with God. I actually have wondered a lot lately whether or not God was out there. So, as I began to walk, I began to ask him if he was out there in the woods.
As I walked, I noticed the blue paint marking the trail. This reminded me of something one of the young men at Vintage shared in a service a few weeks ago. He talked about how walking with God is like walking on a marked trail. God reveals something to you and you follow that trail for a while. But before long, you begin to wonder if you're still going the right direction. It seems at just the right time, God reveals something new. It's like coming around the corner, seeing the blue paint, and knowing that you're still on the path.
It has been a while since God gave me a marked tree. Several years ago, he told me to start Vintage. And that is what I'll do until he tells me differently. As I walked, I thought about how tempting it can be to veer off course, to get distracted and drained by other things. But God didn't call me to Northwest Arkansas to be the greatest customer service manager in used textbook history. And he didn't call me here to have the nicest backyard. He called me here to start a new kind of church. So that's the path I am going to continue to walk, all the while looking for more blue paint to tell me I'm headed the right direction.
As I walked and thought, I found myself asking God if he was out there. Part of me felt kind of silly asking this question, knowing in good theological terms that God is everywhere and in me. Yet he's felt so very far away lately. So, I kept asking if he was there. I really wanted him to be. Desperately, really. And about that time, I came to two trees that were marked not with blue paint but with crosses.
Instantly, I had my answer. God was there. God is here.
Kind of hoping no bikers or runners were going to come down the trail at this very moment and leave me embarrassed in the woods, I lifted my hands, turned my eyes to the sky, and simply thanked God for being there, for showing up, for taking a long walk with me.
I kept walking. And as I walked, I thought about the last time God spoke to me. I am not a very spooky-spirituality kind of guy who hears (or even wants to hear) God's voice often. But about two years ago, in a dark moment in my life, I cried out to God who spoke to me. He said - and I'm not kidding here - he said, "I am not indifferent about you." These were not necessarily warm and fuzzy words. They didn't comfort me all that much, but they did sustain me for a time. As I walked today, I began to express to God that I don't want to hear that he isn't indifferent about me; I want to hear that he loves me.
I know that God loves me. I have experienced his love through my salvation by his grace. He has provided so much to me by way of familial and material blessings. Nonetheless, I've have been thinking for some time that I really need God to tell me that he loves me.
All too often, I ask Vanessa if she loves and why. I am pretty sure it annoys her. I don't think I ask God this much because I don't want to annoy him. But today, I asked. Repeatedly while I walked. I could feel my pace picking up and my mood changing. "God, tell me you love. Why won't you tell me you love me?"
It was about that time that the trail ended and the paved path began.
I had a really hard time talking to God while I walked the three miles or so on the paved path. My mind wandered and my thoughts turned to all sorts of different aspects of my day. I kept having to remind myself to talk to God, and all I could muster was "God, tell me that you love me."
But I feel kind of hopeful that he will.
Eventually, the paved path led back into the main part of Lake Fayetteville Park, and I began to see a lot more people. People were walking and biking and boating on the beautiful lake. My company's softball team was even playing on one of the fields in the park.
People. Vintage - the path that God has marked for me to walk - is about people. The cross - that lets me know that God is walking with me - is about people. God's love - in me and through me and to me - is about people.
And I suppose that this reminder was well worth a long walk.