Walking Bible Studies

September 30, 2010

A woman came to my house recently whose husband I had helped put in jail the day before. One day she felt afraid of his violence. The next she felt ambivalent about her choice, and she wanted my help to get him out of jail. While I had helped her call the police, I wasn't willing to pay his bond.

Instead, I said, "Why don't you take a day off? He's in jail. He's safe, fed and not drinking. Why don't you take your daughter and go to the woods? Spend a day walking and clearing your own head."

She looked at me, perhaps justifiably, like I was insane. She told me, basically, that this was as selfish and worthless a solution as she could imagine. She had no intention of taking her enormous problem to the woods.

I take some solace in the fact that Episcopal priest Becca Stevens, the author of a recent series of Walking Bible Studies, might agree with me.

"Walking changes us," she writes:

It can transport our spirits from being weighed down by life into the joy of God's presence. It can clarify epiphanies, offer us grace, remind us of our need for repentance, and hold us accountable to our brothers and sisters.

Stevens offers a series of three Bible studies that are meant to be carried out into the world, preferably the natural world. The Path of Love, The Path of Peace and The Path of Justice are pocket-sized Bible studies with short meditations, prayers and Bible-reading, each one offering four weeks' worth of walks.

The combination of movement, nature, biblical texts and Stevens's own insightful words create a unique environment for engagement with scripture. For example, the question "What does it mean to be a reflection of God's image?" (one of Stevens's first walking questions in The Path of Love) changes when you are walking next to a lake instead of sitting in a church basement. Stevens is inventively thoughtful of context in this way, and she knows the power of a moving, living, breathing question.

After my friend's rejection of my suggestion, I decided to take my own advice. I went to the woods myself.

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