To walk with God is the goal of human life. What this means to Christians is not so different than what “mindfulness” means to practitioners of eastern traditions.
Many of you know I wrote a book about walking with God. It is entitled The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. It’s all about how to walk with God.
From my earliest days, I have been fascinated by the mythical Old Testament character whose name is Enoch. He is listed in that cumbersome section of Genesis 5, which most readers gloss over because of its repetitiveness. “So-and-so begat so-and-so, had five hundred children, and died,” and so it goes.
Actually, however, it is a very important passage and its importance is revealed in its repetitiveness. It’s as if the author was saying, “Life was pretty mundane…all too ordinary…people were being born, begetting, growing old, and dying. Nothing particularly different or unusual. But then, quite unanticipated, there was Enoch. Enoch was different. Enoch walked with God. And, it is his walking with God that life’s routine ordinariness was interrupted. Forever.”
I am often asked, “What is the point of human existence?” Which is really just another way of asking, “Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my life?”
Enoch’s life reveals it. You and I are here to walk with God. Period. Yes, it’s just that simple. But, for most people, including yours truly, it takes almost a lifetime to get this. Or, if we happen to have grown up in church, which many of you did – and, I did, too – our faith tradition has made the natural experience of walking with God into a difficulty saddled with all kinds of rules for the journey.
Actually, however, to walk with God is as natural and normal as breathing. It takes no effort whatsoever. In fact, whatever stipulations or expectations with which you or your religion encumbers this natural experience strips it from the realm of grace and makes of it a stuffy religious duty.
I want no part of that kind of religion ever again.
How do you walk with God?
Here are a few suggestions I hope you find helpful…
1. First, let go of all ideas that there is something you must do to qualify to walk with God. There is not. Besides, what would it be anyway? Going to the “right” church, synagogue or temple? Believing just the “right” belief? Come on. Get real, my friend. There is nothing you can do to qualify to walk with God. You are qualified by virtue of your participation in the human race. This is Jesus’ message. Plain and simple.
This is what it means to walk with God.
2. Second, walking with God is to Christians something very similar to that which practitioners of eastern religions know as “mindfulness.” Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a mind…full…of thoughts. It is instead the emptying of your mind of the fullness of thoughts. It is bringing your attention into this very moment.
This is not so easy to do. Try it and you’ll see. In fact, to master this will take practice. Practice, therefore, emptying your mind of thoughts.
For Christians, the teaching Jesus shared related to the Holy Spirit – the inner Presence of God who walks with you moment by moment. The struggle is not in God walking with us or with us walking with God. Both are natural. No matter where you go, God is. Wherever God is, you are.
Why? The indwelling Holy Spirit. Or, for eastern practitioners, “mindfulness.” I love the way Thich Nhat Hanh puts it:
The monk practices mindful breathing while performing his daily tasks…eats…washes…helps the sick and the wounded…and looks deeply at each object he comes into contact with–an orange, a raindrop, or a dying person” (from Living Buddha, Living Christ, p. 176).
This is the point of life lived with an awareness of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the same as practicing “mindfulness.” It is bringing your awareness…you attention to what is transpiring, and maybe nothing is transpiring, at this very moment. When nothing is transpiring, you bring your attention into nothing itself.
That may sound strange, but it is not. I practice being aware of nothing. Nothingness comprises most of what is anyway. Be aware of nothing, from time to time. The net result is, you will become more and more aware of the Presence of God. God is no-thing-ness herself. If you still think of God as a big human granddaddy in the sky…well, then, you have much yet to let go. But do not make this into a struggle. Just be aware of the notions of God you have been programmed to think about and in the awareness they will gradually disappear.
Practice bringing your full attention to that which is right in front of you. As you do, you are bringing your full attention into Presence itself. You are learning to walk with God.
3. When you feel far from God, and for some of you that is painfully too often, make it your practice to just let go of the programmed notion you must, again, “DO” something in order to get close to God. There is not. I repeat. There is not. When you feel out-of-sorts-with-God it is just the way it is. But you really are not.
That’s right. You are not “away” from God. Where could you ever go to get away? So, this notion that you’ve done something to disappoint God or that you’re not quite there yet in your spiritual maturation so as to be deserving of God’s continual presence is a lot of bunk.
Recognize it as bunk and let it go.
This is where faith comes in. Even if you do not feel close to God, believe that you are. Behave as if you are. And, if you will, I promise, the feeling of closeness will soon return.
It is really a misnomer to ever say, “Walk with God.”
Because you do already.
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader and spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers around the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m IN LOVE with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Now.