Occasionally, I like to give you a taste of the writing of one of our authors. Several posts ago, I presented a section from David Roper’s book Psalm 23. Below is his newest book, Teach Us to Number Our Days. I hope you enjoy it.
When I was a much younger man I used to run several miles a day. When my knees gave out I began to walk-first aerobically and then briskly. Now I saunter.
Henry David Thoreau, in an essay on walking, explains the origins of the word “saunter.” He says the term comes from the Middle Ages, when wandering pilgrims would beg for alms to finance their journey to “la Saint Terre” (the Holy Land). Such people became known as “saint-terrers,” or “saunterers.”
I can’t vouch for the etymology of the word, and I understand Thoreau’s theory is in doubt these days, but I like his explanation better than any I’ve heard, for I myself am a saunterer, a wandering pilgrim, begging for grace, slowly making my way to the City of God.
Let’s hear it for sauntering! My dictionary defines the word as “to wander or walk about idly and in a leisurely or lazy manner; to lounge; to stroll; to loiter.” That’s me: God’s loiterer, in no particular hurry, taking time to see the world around me and sample it along the way.
Very few people saunter these days. Most folks on the green belt here in Boise (where I saunter) are in a hurry-speed-walking, or racing around on mountain bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards. I wonder where they’re going, or, as an old song by Alabama, the country group, suggests: “I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why).”
The same can be said for God’s people. So many of us seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere, running off to this meeting or that, signing up for one course or another, frantically working out our own salvation, sanctification, and service for God as though everything depends on us. I wish we all knew how to saunter.
It’s a great art to saunter. And it grows out of the conviction that “all things are of God.”58 Oh, we must pursue God and His will for us with all our heart, but it is rest and peace to know that every aspect of our pilgrimage is in God’s hands. He has freed us from past sin and guilt and is presently freeing us from its power. Our destiny is not riding on anything we do or have done or fail to do here on earth. It rests on the work of One who is faithful to the end.
So, “just go for walks” says Thomas Merton, “live in peace, let change come quietly and invisibly on the inside.”
I find Merton’s words bracing. Since God is at work in me and has promised that He will never forsake the work of His hands, I can trust Him to bring completion to the process He has begun. It’s been my experience that whatever change takes place in me is fairly slow, occurring in some secret, hidden part of me and often imperceptible except in retrospect.
There are even times of failure when I seem to be making no progress at all. I may even revert to old habits of behavior for a season-regressions that make me believe I’ve slipped back into old patterns of sin. It is good to remind myself in those times that it may be years later that I see what God has been doing. His pace, though inexorably steady and impossible to stop, is also excruciatingly slow.
In the meantime, while I saunter toward heaven and home, I can begin to pay attention to those who are in pilgrimage with me. I can take every occasion to listen, to love, and to pray, knowing that I don’t have to rush about and make things happen. God himself has prepared good works for me to do.
Thoreau was not a Christian, as far as I know, but he often wrote with luminous insight. Thus he concludes his essay on sauntering: “So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.”
Thoreau was a wise man-wiser than he knew. Someday soon our “sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings”61 and we shall settle into a perfect pace.
Taken from Teach Us to Number Our Days
© 2008 by David Roper
All rights reserved.
David Roper served as a pastor for many years. Now, he and his wife, Carolyn, offer encouragement and counsel to pastoral couples through Idaho Mountain Ministries. David is the author of thirteen books, including Psalm 23: The Song of a Passionate Heart. He is a regular and popular writer for Our Daily Bread.
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