I learned about the magic of walking from my father’s father. When he had a long hard day at “the” A & P (it was never just A & P), or when the noise in the house was too much for him, or when he simply needed to think and pray, he’d leave his little house at 1137 West 5th Avenue in Huntington, WV and walk through the streets of town and along the bank of the Ohio River. Sometimes he took the dog, sometimes not.

One of the finest, simplest gifts he gave me was letting me tag along. We didn’t say much. Most of the time we said nothing at all. He was a man of few words, and the silence was comforting to me. I could feel, though—or I imagine now that I felt—what those walks did for him. They took him to clearer seeing, keener hearing, better thinking, and calmer feeling.

By letting me go with him, he taught me to walk and think, to walk and pray, to walk and just be.

I was usually a step or two behind, since he had long legs, a lean body, and a fast stride. I was about as wide as I was tall, wearing pants bought in the Husky Department at JC Penney’s.

My heart’s image for following Jesus is something like those walks with my grandfather: I am at least a couple of steps behind, trying to keep pace with Jesus, learning how to stay on my feet or to get back up when I fall; learning how to walk, even when the path is narrow, twisting, and shadowed; and being changed by putting my feet where his have been.

He’s walking me into a way of life characterized by:

compassion not condemnation
tenderness not harshness
mutuality not manipulation
humility not arrogance
generosity, not greed
sharing, not selfishness.
forgiveness, not revenge
healing, not hurt
peace, not violence
love, not fear
hope, not despair
joy, not dejection

I’m behind, sometimes far behind Jesus, but it is grace simply to be within earshot and eyeshot, to be on the path with him and other companions, and to be led into a way of life I could never find on my own.