Is it acceptable for Christians to fangirl over certain teachers and speakers? I mean, there are quite a few where I’d probably be speechless if I met them… before asking all the inappropriate questions. One pastor I listen to a lot is John Mark Comer and I am pretty sure it is from him that I picked up this idea:

Love moves at 3mph, the speed of walking.

I liked this idea. God moved slowly because he wanted to take the time to talk with and get to know those He “walked with”. But as with so many metaphors used to explain theological concepts, it didn’t really sink in. We talk about walking with God so much that it has almost lost meaning. We infer that Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden with God and know that Jesus walked with His disciples – relationships that were built at walking pace. 

Yet this all happened in the Bible. In 2019, we lived in a world where walking had become an anomaly. Pre-Covid, life was lived at such a pace that the only socially acceptable options seemed to be driving everywhere, even places that were less than half an hour away by foot. The only places I know this not to be the case are cities where traffic is so bad and the geography so flat that cycling is quicker. As someone who chose to walk everywhere within a 30-minute radius, and was often questioned for that choice, I can say that at least British society does not think walking is a logical or sane option.

The Disappearance of Walking

Walking as an activity had all but disappeared. Sure, it is cute for babies when they are learning to walk but for the rest of us it is a crude necessity. We have minimised the amount we have to walk to just when we need to do it. The greatest example of this is social walking. Which is more normal: to sit in a coffee shop with our mochas and lattes as we catch up with friends or to take a walk with those same friends.

I know what you’re thinking – we’re in a pandemic. We can only just sit in coffee shops again. So pretend for a moment that we can sit in coffee shops without a care in the world. Not even any social distancing. Which one would you normally choose to do? Yep, same here – the coffee shop. Why would you walk when you can sit down and sip coffee like ladies of leisure? Even in the countryside, where you’d think we have loads of walking options, you are more likely to see full coffee shops than busy hillsides.

Or at least that was the case.

The Necessity of Walking

COVID has changed everything. Sitting in a coffee shop with our friends was not an option for most of the last 14 months. The closest we got was a takeaway while – you guessed it – walking with a friend as we take our daily exercise. Walking made a comeback because it became necessary. In order to build, develop and maintain relationships of all kinds, walking was crucial. For those of us who are able to go out and are willing to be even two metres close to another person, walking has become a bedrock of relationships.

I’m not just talking out my backside either. Of all the times to do it, God has introduced someone new into my life. Yes, great timing there God, what with social distancing, minimal contact with other people, and most normal social activities being prohibited. In order to get to know one another, we had only one option: to go walking together and talk as we did so.

Yet I swear that as we walked, what we talked about deepened in a way that it never would have within a coffee shop. I don’t know if it was the sounds of nature where there would have been awkward silence or not feeling the pressure to maintain eye contact because I could look at the trees but walking made it all easier. Even now, though our situation has changed, the walks we take together are where we have some of our best conversations and are among my favourite memories.

Another example is taking fortnightly walks with one of my best friends. She is one of few people I would walk with pre-COVID (she’s a true country lass) but it was an extra for us. Suddenly it felt necessary for not just our friendship but also our sanity. (Honestly, if my other best friends lived within five miles I would do the same with all of them.) As we walk, talk, and breathe fresh air, there is something human about the whole experience… even the “going to the loo behind a tree” part. I feel more myself because I have walked with a friend. Walking is good. Talking with a friend is good. Together they are more than the sum of their parts.

For several months, exercise was the only way that we could see our friends and family – assuming that they lived within five miles of us and weren’t shielding. Walking together (within the law/restrictions) was necessary if we were to maintain what it means to be human – our connection to one another. 

I wish everyone could go walk and talk with their friends and family. I cannot wait for the day I can walk with my grandpa to the end of his garden as he talks about the birds that visit or the flowers my gran has planted.

Love Moves at 3mph

I’m starting to get it now; why love moves at 3mph (the average speed of walking). The time I have spent walking with friends and family in the last year has changed and moved our relationships. But one thing I know for sure is that I have never regretted taking a walk with a friend, whether we spent it talking about our life aims or indulging in the joy of fairy woods on our doorstep. Rather, my love for the person I’ve walked with has grown.

I don’t know what the theological basis is for saying that love moves at 3mph. Maybe there isn’t one and it’s pure coincidence that God walked in the garden where humanity lived or that Jesus lived at a time where He had to walk with His disciples. Yet I will not deny that walking with my friends and family over the past year has helped me love them better.

So I want to finish today with a challenge to you: keep on walking! Don’t go back to sitting down every time we socialise. Get up, take your KeepCup or thermal mug, and meet a friend for a walking coffee. And if that isn’t much of a challenge, why not go on a walk with God? Leave the earbuds at home. Talk to God about what’s on your mind as you walk. He might not respond in the same way but give it a few weeks – your relationship will deepen with Him.

Don’t stop walking with the people you love. Keep on loving them and as you do so, you’ll naturally want to walk with them.

Love moves at 3mp, the speed of walking.