One of my (Matthew’s) prize possessions is a small trophy that I won for coming second in the mile walk when I was at Police Training College. To be fair to me, the guy who won it had the distinct advantage of being 6 feet 7 inches tall… and in case you’re wondering, I completed the four laps of the athletics track in just under 9 minutes, at an average speed of 6½mph. It was the climax of my rather short athletics career…
When I graduated from the college a short while later, my training sergeants gave me a card with light-hearted advice to the effect that I needed to ‘slow down to regulation pace’ when I was walking the beat.
One of the effects of the current pandemic is that in many ways it has forced us all to ‘slow down to regulation pace’. As we do so, although we might not ‘do’ as much in terms of tasks completed, we can find that we actually achieve more in terms of enhancing our own (and others’) quality of life. I write this just after returning from a walk that we took to drop off a couple of items of mail. Normally I would have done that by car on my way between other commitments. But taking the slower option gave us time to talk through things that were on our minds… it meant that we bumped into and said hello to one of our Noah’s Ark families. It did us good physically, mentally and spiritually. God was present in our conversation; he was present in our encounters; and he was present in our walk.
As we continue through our series on perseverance, I am reminded of something that was said about Captain Sir Tom Moore in marking his death this week – ‘He used a walking frame, campaign medals catching the light as he purposefully, effortfully, put one foot in front of the other, day after day. And soon the eyes of a locked-down nation were looking on, mesmerised and moved by his unshowy display of resolve.’ (The Telegraph, 2/2/21) His daily walk last year became a metaphor for the perseverance (and effort) that we all need to get through life, one step at a time.
I was also reminded that in a much slower world, this was the example of Jesus’ lifestyle. No helicopters or flash limousines to get him from place to place. He went everywhere on foot. Slowly. When he walked with his friends on the Emmaus Road after his resurrection, he waited until the evening before disclosing his identity to them. When making his way to heal Jairus’s dying daughter, he paused to attend to another person’s long-standing suffering. And when his close friend Lazarus lay dying, he delayed his journey two whole days before answering Mary and Martha’s distress call. No blue lights or sirens. Just one foot in front of the other. Sometimes very slowly!
And yet he achieved all that he set out to achieve in his life and ministry, until finally he walked willingly and purposefully into Jerusalem to face his destiny, to show us the way of sacrificial love and to call us into God’s family. The risen Jesus still walks slowly today, patiently waiting for us to slow down enough… to catch up with him.
In reflecting on the impact of the pandemic, many commentators are reaching the conclusion that this season of perseverance is an opportunity for us all simply to focus on keeping on putting one foot in front of the other; to walk at regulation pace instead of racing ahead, and in so doing, to slow down enough to catch up with God’s plans and purposes for our lives, as we learn to walk at Jesus’ pace instead of ours.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline