“Can I have some milk and cookies?” I hear my patient ask. It’s Friday night, and on the locked psychiatric ward where I work, I know that one of the highlights of a patient’s day is getting a snack. Bored and restless with little else to do, our long-term patients look forward to snack time as a moment of temporary pleasure.
As a mental health nurse, I have learned to use these times to build rapport with my patients. Rather than bringing snacks to their rooms, I invite them to come with me to the dayroom so that I can use the time to converse.
Normally, I walk quickly down the hall since I am in “work mode,” prioritizing and checking tasks off my mental to-do list: Patient 1 needs medication for anxiety, Patient 2 needs medication for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, Patient 3 needs medication for pain with a heat pack, Patient 4 needs her vital signs retaken, Patient 5 needs me to call the doctor. Check, check, check. So if I am not careful, I find myself walking briskly with my patient trailing behind me.
I deceive myself into thinking that I am spending time with my patient, when I am, in reality, just walking ahead of them.
How often we do this with God as well. We assure ourselves, “I am walking with God today,” when we are merely walking ahead of God. We figure out our plans and then pray about them later, asking God to bless them after the fact. Or we take the lead and make important decisions without seeking Him at all.
Walking Together with God
The Bible uses the verb “walk” repeatedly to describe both God and man in various contexts:
- “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 NIV).
- “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12).
- “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).
- “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Let us intentionally slow down our steps today to walk together with God. In doing so, we will be able to hear His voice better. As I have learned in the hallways of a psychiatric unit, when we walk ahead of people, they are not able to speak to us without having to raise their voice.
The noisier the surroundings, the less likely that we can hear them and build a relationship. Walking with people means that we slow down to match their pace so that we can hear what they are saying to us.
Slowing down our steps is not easy when we are accustomed to a certain pace in life. It might even feel like a discipline that we have to consciously practice. But we have more control of our pace than we think.
In the same way that overly stressed and busy people move briskly, we can slow down our minds by physically slowing down our legs and feet. We might not be able to control our external environment, but we can control our reactions to it.
Try walking slower with me this week. This might mean making allowances, such as leaving earlier to get to appointments and allowing more time between the tasks on your to-do list. Compare how you feel at the end of the week.
“Like Martha, people can become so consumed with doing what they think they should that they miss what God wants. If there is anything more important than serving Jesus, it is simply being in His presence.” —David Jeremiah, The Jeremiah Study Bible
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