I could have walked from Atlanta to Los Angeles by now, or to put it on a more global scale, almost halfway across Russia from east to west, or the same distance across Africa from north to south. For today marks exactly one year since I began my streak of walking at least five miles a day, and more recently, seven or eight.
It’s been an interesting experiment, to be sure. For a little like those postal carriers of old who let neither “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” stay them from “their appointed rounds,” over the past twelve month, I’ve walked primarily outdoors, too, only substituting hotel or gym treadmills when necessary. My faithful co-trekker for much of it has been my wife, but other times I’ve walked alone, giving me lots of chances to ponder and pray, an occupational hazard for any preacher who, given the time, will quite naturally come up with several points and maybe even a poem or so.
I’ve discovered anew, for instance, the power of habit. For even though I never really intended to go for 365 days in a row, what began as much smaller goals– a week, a month, 50 days, 100 days–soon turned into more extensive ones. And to be honest, the only thing that actually got me up and out there at six in the morning some days was simply the streak itself, and my obsessive-compulsive fear that if I broke it, I would never go this long again.
Likewise, I also figured out that the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu was right about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step, or as his famous proverb more correctly is translated, it begins “beneath one’s feet.” For had anyone suggested to me last July that I would make a 4,418,130 step journey on foot, I would have simply laughed, forgetting that all great things do indeed start from humble beginnings.
Through it all, however, my fitness tracker has been absolutely unbending when it comes to resetting the count all over again every 24 hours at midnight. For to keep the streak going, daily goals required daily responses, and try as I may, I could never figure out how to bank any extra miles from one day to the next.
And all of this would also seem to be true in the spiritual life. For it is the holy habits we develop (such as prayer, scripture reading, and worship) that slowly but surely change the other facets of our lives as well. Similarly, every good work we might ask God to do in us always begins beneath our own feet, as we step out in faith to respond to His winsome call to “Follow Me.”
What’s more, that journey of discipleship is indeed a daily one, aptly expressed in the Hebrew word halak. For though our salvation may have been secured in the past, it is always worked out in the present to those who are “being saved.” (1 Corinthians 1.18) And in the end, it’s not just about imitation, but about intimacy with God as well. For at numerous points in the Bible we are told that individuals such as Abraham and Enoch “walked with God,” hand-in-hand as friends with their Creator too.
Of course, someone might also point out that having expended an extra 316,667 calories over the last year that I should actually have lost ninety pounds. But then that really wasn’t the point of it all. For in the end, most journeys, including spiritual ones, are not really about what you lose, but about what you gain.
And as Year Two begins, I plan to be back out there again tomorrow morning. After all, I still have to go at least another 1500 miles or so just to get home from California.