Plantigrade

“Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.” (Deuteronomy 11:24)

So, rewinding back to our Indo-European roots for this one, plantigrade comes to us from the roots “ghredh” and “plat-“. The former meaning “to walk” and the latter “to spread”. The word itself carries the definition of “walking on the soles of our feet”. Humans do it, bears too. And all I really have to add by way of allusion and metaphor is that of distance. I’m reminded of the time when “Jesus”, it says, “[was] led up of the Spirit to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

Covering ground

I walk a lot. I have a sort-of nervous energy through which walking is the perfect outlet. I can’t stand to be sitting still unless I’m writing or else wound down at the end of my day. Chalk it up to the fact that I’ve worked the same job for most of my life (bookseller) and the idea of going from work, to the breakroom, stanching the flow and output of my energies is not a pleasant one. And so, I cover ground. The fifteen minutes I’m allotted is just enough to make it around the block and back. I love it. Rain, snow (not much of that where I live), heat, cold. No matter. The locale feels pretty much like a wilderness (maybe it’s just me) and so I walk. The focus–it’s the same reason I run–and the clarity. Walking does this. It’s something, I suppose I can say this in light of any and every worldview, that we were designed to do. It feels natural. For a moment, at least, your entirety is balanced on the ball of your foot and you press on. One foot in front of the other until you reach your destination. Walking is walking. Simple. Primal. Fluid. The perfect machine that is our body can get where it needs to go through the simplest of processes. On your feet! There’s ground to cover.

“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12)

At the Intersection of Mercy and Truth

My friend Ben and I sat outside the coffeeshop across the street from the freeway. This particular portion of interstate is a bridge and driving across, you can look out on the relatively humble city in which we live. The zip codes are different on either side. Against the background noise of the cars on both the street and the bridge, Ben proceeds to tell me about how the freeway (as a thing–anywhere) began as a lowly footpath through uncharted territory and was then followed up and expanded upon by those who came after. Until eventually, sites and cities and more sprung up around their latticework.

The light gray concrete slopes on the sides of the bridge are overgrown with blackberry brambles and bordered by chain-link fence. So climbing up to the freeway is more than just irrational and dangerous, it’s also painful. About a week ago, however, I stood outside the same coffeeshop as a gargantuan tree limb snapped off and crashed over a section of fence, bowing it down to the ground. One, were they crazy enough, could vault over and be on their way north or south! Where are we going with this?

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Walking the leylines

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Like most things symbolic, you can follow it back to a source. But if that source doesn’t flow in line with God’s character, it will lead you astray. And what better way to illustrate the simplicity of following God, than by using the parallel of the “line”? A “ley” or “lea” is a stretch of ground that is not ready yet for planting. The only way is to till the ground. To walk across and pave the way. Granted, we’re mixing planting and also exploratory metaphors here but God always leaves fruit in His wake. A “leyline” is like the longitude/latitude or a meridian on the earth. Direct routes from one place to another and also strategically located markers in place. The lines themselves are not the source of the power, it’s that God is directing you and you’re following Jesus on your journey. The truth is, we really can’t go anywhere that Jesus hasn’t already been.

“He (and she) that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12-13)

A long row to hoe

“All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.” (Psalm 25:10)

“And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:7-8)

The above passage is saying that no one whose heart is not right with God will be allowed on His road. The verse prior, however, shows that whatever path you may find yourself on as we speak, is one of mercy and truth. And remember: “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6) A right heart with a wrong head is worth the world to God. He can make your journey turn out for the best no matter in what direction you set your first footstep. The trick is to find it, to get on it and to keep moving. And if you don’t see one, ask God to pave the way for you so that you can do the same for those coming after.

“And he said, I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory. And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Exodus 33:18-19)

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Best Foot Forward

“Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?” (Psalm 49:5)

Sleep, walk

The days of evil? It would seem that we walk through seasons. Through uptimes and downtimes that coincide with numerous others. Cycles that include “for better” and “for worse”. Days of good and “days of evil”. There’s always something going on in God’s kingdom. And when we put into motion, wheels of circumstances that we then have no control over, the best thing to do is cry out to God that He would allay the results that we are (now) responsible for. The psalmist in this case didn’t worry about what he caused, only that he was moving forward and trusting God for the outcome. God cares about what we do and where we’re going. As He is logistically perfect, He’ll integrate you seamlessly into what He’s doing in your area and your past will effectively be behind you.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Swathed and swaddled

So keep walking. After the disciples fell asleep “the third time”, Jesus moves on and says “Rise up, let us go” (Mark 14:41-42). There were lessons to be learned from falling asleep at the wheel, so to speak, and those lessons would be learned sooner or later. But Jesus is walking. How many times does He say to “follow me”? Reminder after reminder. Where’s He going? This is where trust comes in. In retrospect to certain seasons of my life, I realize that God was carrying me through. So whether you are following in the footsteps (the Old English root of swathe comes from footprint) or being carried like a baby–awake or asleep–purposely endeavor to keep moving. This doesn’t negate the notion of “waiting on the Lord” or “being still and knowing God is God”. Work it out as you move along.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. [They] that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing [their] sheaves with [them].” (Psalm 126:5-6)

Nor does it cancel, in closing, the concept of atonement and forgiveness and saying sorry. Those things work wonders. And are essential. It’s ideal, as one “shall doubtless come again” that we ensure others can start out on the path and put their best foot forward.

 

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Walking In the Spirit (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 4)

“…and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6b)

And we’re off!

Psalms (37:23) says that “the steps of a good man (or woman) are ordered by the Lord”

I used to wonder (worry) about this. Knowing that God was real and wanting to walk in His plan for my life, I fretted over the minutiae of my life, because I knew that “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” and vice-versa (Luke 16:10). But divorced from love and grace—the two things that God uses to enable us to live as Jesus did—life can be a drag. Boring and dry and loveless. We think that, in order to get God to give us stuff (material or immaterial), there needs to be a transaction (an economic arrangement, as it were). Tit for tat. I do this, You do that. This thinking, because of what Jesus already did and does for us (life, death, resurrection, intercession), is now obsolete. But this doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is outmoded. Jesus came and “fulfilled” the law (Matthew 5:17-18). Everything is now in Him. Going back to the verse from Psalm 37, the definition for “good”-ness is now defined as commitment to a person: Jesus . And not just a set of beliefs or ideals. As in actively knowing Him in the here and now.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

As Christians, our walk, “our conversation” (Philippians 3:20), is still defined by the principles laid out by Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6—as followed in love. The difference is that we now have the indwelling Holy Spirit who performs the promise of Proverbs 3:6: “He shall direct thy paths”. This promise, of being “led of His Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16-18), silences any worry and wonder (the negative kind) and frees us to live in the liberty, grace and love that Jesus paid for with His life.

Looking back, I guess it does cost something after all: our attention. Our inward sight and adoration fixed on God. There is a sacrifice but it’s so worth it.

As we live out Proverbs 3:5-6, in the long run, we fulfill God’s call for our life—all while our attention’s on Him. One moment, one acknowledgement at a time.

In closing, a story.

My dad accepted the Lord in the Winter of 1968. He was home from college on Christmas break–miserable. One of the last things that happened in his dorm prior to leaving for home was a conversation with a couple guys about Jesus. The only reason, he says, that he even deigned talk to them was because he didn’t feel like working on an overdue biology assignment. The door to his dorm was open and while there was still work to be done, he couldn’t help but hear in the halls the carousing and commotion brought about by the impending vacation. He heard a knock on the open door and let in the two men (they had purposed only to speak to those whose doors were open) and talked with them for a few minutes. They even used his Bible (from his Methodist ubringing, which he had on a bookshelf but never read) to point out truths regarding God and Jesus. He thanked them and they left him with a pamphlet and a phone number. At home (he lived in Virginia), he wrestled with the issues that were presented to him a few days before. After a brief chat with a next-door neighbor (who happened to be a pastor) that still didn’t silence the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he made his way back to his old room on the second floor of his house. The Bible from which the men introduced the promise of something new lay at the foot of his bed. He knelt down by the side of the bed and prayed the prayer of salvation as found at the end of the pamphlet. He made it halfway and then made a mistake in the recitation. So he started over—and again failed to get it right. The third time he prayed to God, thinking that he had to say things just so, God answered him with a flood of peace and the knowledge that he’d been born again. After he got up off his knees, with newfound confidence (and also something as-yet undefinable), he asked quite the pointed question of His (now, new) Heavenly Father. “You got anything in this book I can use?” He walked around to the end of his bed, picked up the Bible and opened it up to the book of Proverbs, third chapter. He put his finger, very inconspicuously, on verses five and six.

And the rest is history.