Reflections on Christ Walk, a 40-day Spiritual Fitness Program
For 6 weeks after Easter, a group of St. Matthew’s parishioners and friends met at the farm of Susan and Jim Jung in Conyers each Saturday morning for fellowship, education, and walking as part of Christ Walk, a 40-day spiritual fitness program. As a physician and mental health practitioner, I have been aware for many years of the profound physical and emotional benefits of walking. The experience of Christ Walk has shown me that walking can also be a powerful tool for spiritual growth, which is fundamental to health and wellness.
The Christ Walk is described in a book entitled Christ Walk by Anna F. Courie, a registered nurse and EFM graduate who started the first Christ Walk in 2006 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hampton, Virginia. Having worked as a Health Promotions Coordinator and designing walking programs for the military, she realized the benefits of walking with intention and purpose and was called to create and start the program.
Several walking routes and Biblical journeys of Christ and his disciples were referenced in the introduction of the book, with each journey having a different distance, goal, and spiritual purpose. We were encouraged to set our goals for distance and a spiritual purpose, to walk every day, and to record our distance, spiritual thoughts, and feelings each day. We were given the flexibility to substitute the walking with other physical activities, as desired, and the book started each day of the journey with Biblical scriptures of encouragement.
Walking with spiritual intention allowed me the time and opportunity to actively ponder my relationship with God in my daily life, not just during church or a daily prayer ritual, but in my words and actions with my family, my patients, and my friends. “Was I truly walking the walk” ? (No pun intended) The weekly meetings at the Jung farm allowed us to encourage and support one another and reflect on our activities during the week.
The natural beauty of the Jung Farm and the surrounding farmland stimulated all my senses as I walked and brought forth prayers of praise and thanksgiving for the simple wonders of creation and the healing powers of nature. On subsequent walks, I set personal and professional goals and used my time to converse with God and to ask for His guidance and blessings. There were some days that I could not walk and felt guilty, but on resuming my walk and focusing on God’s love and grace, I knew that He was still walking with me.
Quiet time for “listening” to God is obtained by many through the practice of meditation. All of the major religions of the world have some form of meditation to quiet the mind and facilitate spiritual enlightenment. As Christians, we are taught to “be still and quiet” in order the “hear” the Holy Spirit. Simply speaking, we pray and “talk” to God, while with meditation, we are quiet and “listen” to God. There are many who have mastered the art of walking meditation, which focuses on coordinating the breath with the paces of walking. I am more comfortable, however, meditating while I am still and seated, focusing on my breathing and a simple phrase or mantra.
The Christ Walk Program was an opportunity for me to strengthen my relationship with God through intentional walk with prayer and meditation. It was also an opportunity to fellowship with others and to improve my physical fitness. Since the official six-week period of Christ Walk has ended, I have continued my walk due to the benefits I have felt. I hope that this Christ Walk was the first of many, and I invite all of you to join us for the next Christ Walk.
Flora D. Cox, M.D.