“Come and walk with me.” This is a profound statement with deep spiritual implications. It’s an invitation to spend time and space with another human being and to know the paths they travel. It opens the door for two people to know one another at a deeper level; a level that goes beyond the usual platitudes of “How are you” and “I’m doing fine.” To walk with another human being is a way to draw in the same air they breathe and feel the same stones under your feet they feel under theirs while walking beside you on the rocky path of life. It’s a time to feel the coolness of the evening setting in because both of you are walking the same path at the same time going in the same direction.
I’ve spent over twenty years providing therapy and pastoral care for hurting people. In that time, I’ve come to understand there is a deep mystery in the human experience we often overlook. When I listen to people share their toughest and most difficult experiences, I’m reminded of the profound uniqueness of that experience for that particular individual. Yet, at the same time, I marvel at how our common humanity allows me to know something about what they’ve gone through. They may be struggling with divorce and I may have never experienced the pain of such a disruption in life, but I know what it means to feel unwanted, unappreciated, and left behind. Two different human souls engaged in a dialogue with two different life experiences, yet at the root of these two different experiences is the transcendent reality that human life requires love, acceptance, and the need to connect with another human being. When someone enters into a real dialogue with you, not one bereft of true human expression, they are in a sense asking you to “Come walk with me.” If you want to help that individual flourish, you will accept that invitation and walk with them.
Walking with someone takes skill and the willingness to take risks. It’s not as simple as merely listening to what they have to say and then stating your objective opinion. It means entering into their world, experiencing their pain, and simply “walking,” not running, skipping, or standing still. You must walk with them, breathe with them, sincerely engage them.
If we want other people to flourish, recover from their pain, and develop into people of character, we must be willing to walk with them. We must also remember we cannot push ourselves into their stride, we must be invited to walk with them. In my love for my children, the people who are my friends, my wife, my students, and every other Christian soul I meet, I make sure I intentionally make myself available to them so that when they give me the invitation to walk with them, I’m ready to do so. It’s the only way to connect with others and it’s the most profound way to help carry their burdens allowing them to see a new path. I pray all of us learn to walk with others and be a companion to those in our lives needing it most. Remember, Christ did not impose his divine presence on us and overwhelm us with his glory, he chose rather to “walk with us” by taking on human flesh, suffering with us, and living like the very souls he came to save. Go and do likewise, and “Walk with others.”