In her recent book Waymaker author Ann Voscamp calls the times she goes out to walk in nature her “glory walks,” meaning it’s when she can just bask in the natural beauty of God’s creation and absorb it into her soul. My early morning walks this summer have been just that, so I’m savoring these late summer mornings before the temperature drops and the wind howls.
I usually come home from a glory walk having developed a new perspective, sorted out a problem, or gleaned new insight into life’s mysteries. One day recently I spied two tiny baby rabbits nibbling grass beside the sidewalk. When my big, scary black shadow covered them, their mother scurried out of the brush and herded them back to safety. I wouldn’t have hurt them for the world, but she didn’t know that. That morning as I walked I prayed for all the young moms in our family and church trying to protect their offspring from the evils of our current culture. Not a prayer that would have come to mind without my walk, but a needed one.
This morning’s walk was different—a new route and an additional kind of glory. After a too-early appointment for a bone density scan, I decided to walk around the big lake in a city park in our town. The city’s done a wonderful job of maintaining the park, but still it is in a sketchier part of town than I usually navigate alone so I pulled up to the lake, locked the car, and set out with a bit of trepidation.
I didn’t walk far before my fears were forgotten. The lake was glistening in the sun, the geese were plentiful, and the mountain peaks were glorious. I passed other walkers with dogs and exchanged pleasantries. As I passed by a bench where a young man was sitting near an elderly woman in a wheelchair I heard him remark, “See grandma, all these people are walking to stay fit.” I paused and turned toward them. “That reminds me of a sign I just saw in my doctor’s office,” I said. “It read, ‘I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape!’” That gave them both a good laugh and I was glad I could brighten their morning.
As I made my way toward the far side of the lake I passed a few homeless people, including a young man trying to teach himself to jump rope with a long piece of black cable. I called out a “good for you!” as I passed.
Suddenly this was beginning to feel more like a pilgrimage than a glory walk, so I wasn’t surprised when on the far side of the lake I encountered a group of young Black men and women playing by the shore with an older dog and a passel of puppies. One young man with dreadlocks to his waist was holding two of the cutest puppies I’ve seen in a long time. I might have nodded and walked on, but then I’m reading Senator Tim Scott’s new book America, A Redemption Story. In it he says if we are ever going to heal the racial or political divides in this country, we can’t depend on the government to do it. We each have to do some small thing to make a difference each and every day.
That message speaks to my heart, so rather than nod and pass by, believing they would have no interest in talking to an old white woman, I approached the group and began fawning over and petting the puppies. After a few minutes I excused myself and said, “I can’t stay or I’ll be begging to take one of those puppies home, and neither my cat nor my husband would be happy about that!” We all laughed and waved as I walked away.
Who’s next, Lord? I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Ahead of me I saw a large Black man standing under a canopy of oak trees to the right of the sidewalk. As I approached I heard him call out, “Come and get it, I ain’t comin’ to you!” Assuming he was calling a dog, I stopped to see if I could spot the pooch. Soon I realized he was holding an open bag of peanuts, and he was addressing six or eight squirrels who were leaping about on the grass in front of him. Another day I might not have approached him, but emboldened by Scott’s book and my experience with the puppy posse, I struck up a conversation by saying something obvious like, “Oh, you’re feeding the squirrels!”
“Yes’m,” he replied. “They know I’m comin’ every day and they wait here for me.” We chatted a bit and as I started to walk away he called out, “Mam, will you pray for me? My name’s Charles and I’m goin’ through some trials. Will you pray for me?”
“I will, Charles. I promise!” I called back to him. I don’t know why he pegged me as a woman who prayed, but for the rest of the walk to my car I asked the Lord to bless Charles, a modern-day St. Francis of Assisi. “Lord, I don’t know what trials Charles is facing, but you do. Be with him today, Lord. Protect him and give him your peace.”
As with most glory walks, at the end of this one I felt blessed and changed. Faith is greater than fear. To God be the glory!