I heard a story the other day about a man, an evangelist, who wanted to make an impact in a certain country, but he had no contacts in this land and therefore, no opportunities to do anything there. So what he felt he should do was visit the place every year and walk around - nothing earth-shattering happened, he just walked around. For five years he made periodic visits to the country and walked and walked and walked. During the sixth year, on one of his visits, he met a person who introduced him to someone else and this contact gave him an invitation to work with and speak to the people in this country and thus the door opened to doing the very thing he had envisioned all those years.
I found this story strangely encouraging, because most of my life seems to be spent walking around. I would love to be thrust from one thrilling adventure to another, leap from one success story to the next, have one vision after another fulfilled, but alas, many of my days are spent plodding along. One foot in front of the other, one word at a time, one conversation following another, one sit-up at a time, day after day of eating, cleaning, working, laughing, loving and encountering people in everyday life. The immediate progress is not visible in any measurable or significant way, but that is the thing about foundations – they take time to build. There is always a guaranteed reward to faithfulness, but how many times do I miss it because I can’t see results after the fourth year, get discouraged, and stop walking? The children of Israel who were walking around the walls of Jericho could have stopped at the sixth circuit around the city and gone home defeated. After all, what did they really have to show for their efforts except a well-worn trail and a lot of dust? I have now lived in Quebec for 6 years, and much of that time has been spent walking, living, listening, learning. Nothing earth-shattering. But I can feel a subtle change, mostly in my attitude, towards the people that surround me. I identify with them more, I understand them better, and I no longer feel like an outsider. These six years have planted me here and now I am beginning to see the fruit of walking in a strange land. The walls between us are starting to come down. I am now a Quebecer, not simply a visitor.
Walking is important. Not every step is the one that puts you over the finish line, but without each and every step, one would never get there. Sometimes I get into that restrictive somewhat utilitarian mindset where everything must have immediate results or measurable and obvious spiritual goals before I consider it worth doing. This is a very narrow view of life because it supposes that I am the one to judge the end, that I can in fact see where things are leading and how they will turn out, that I know which things have lasting value and which things are a waste of time. Worst of all, it presumes that life is a story about me. It is not. It is a story about God, a loving father who calls his kids to walk towards him, even when they don't see the end of the road.