Looking back through the photos from my recent time in Israel and Palestine, alongside the Walls and Windows, I was struck by the number of photos I took of my feet and of pathways I was walking on. This is not uncommon. Many of those I traveled with did the same.
“My feet are standing where Jesus stood.”
“I am walking where Abraham walked.”
“This path is one Paul would have used many times.”
For me, this is tied to one of the key benefits of the study purpose of the trip we did. It provides a sense of ‘groundedness’ to the biblical text. It highlights that the story we read and live out of is a story that took place in real time and real space. It enables us to picture the contexts of it in concrete ways.
There is a connection to history and story through a sense of place. And a reminder that God continues to meet us within our own real place and time.
This is something I think many from other cultures, including that of the Aboriginal peoples of my home land, understand much better than I do. The connection that walking the land brings to history, identity, story, family, belonging, and being.
I’ve also been struck by the idea of walking as a means of making sense of the world. During my PhD studies I read a book that introduced me to the idea of the foot as a ‘sensory organ’ in the Old Testament. It has resonated in my own life and in my church community in multiple ways.
It’s something that I’ve noticed about the way I travel. I find it important to walk a place when I arrive to get a sense of it.
It’s also something I’ve appreciated more since moving to the city, spending less time in my car and more time on foot around my neighbourhood.
And it’s a truth in how I understand my faith, seen in the call of Jesus to follow him and in the common phrasing of the New Testament letters to walk in his ways.
And of course it is connected to the Psalms I studied and the image of pilgrimage, which I am convinced is more than a metaphor but the lived experience of the people of God.
And it is the explanation for the tattoo I got last year on my foot, the Hebrew words of Psalm 121:8, which says “The LORD guards your coming out and your going in” or as our tour guide in Israel read colloquially, “The LORD guides your steps.”
What does it mean for you to consider how your feet and the land you walk on grounds your experience and makes sense of the world today?