You’ve probably seen me walking around town with my 2-year-old in a jogging stroller, running errands, and making my daily South Newberg rounds. About a year ago, I started taking a walk after dropping off my older daughter at her elementary school most mornings. I began this practice with the intentions of burning some calories and alleviating some of the lower back pain that seems to be a common experience of parents with toddlers. Before becoming a parent, no one tells you about the toll parenting young children will take on your body!
I’ve never been good at sitting, and truth be told I’ve always found this to be a fairly shameful characteristic. I didn’t read much as a child because I would have had to sit still long enough to become interested in a book. I often bemoan the fact that graphic novels rarely made it into the hands of girls until recently. They could have been my reading lifeline! I remember feeling ashamed as a teenager about my inability to have a daily Bible devotional time simply because I lacked the attention span and therefore the commitment to the practice. Since this was the marker of being a “good Christian,” or so I was told, I later attempted to redeem myself by way of graduating with a biblical studies degree in college and then went on to study biblical theology in graduate school. While finding a more formal academic study of the Bible both worthwhile and rewarding, this study alone was not enough to draw me into a vibrant relationship with God. Unfortunately, it also came with the baggage of my attempts to soothe my own shame about my lack of attention and the need for my body to either move or sleep, but not to sit still.
Now in my mid-thirties, I am finally coming to understand that the movement of my body is not only a gift to me, but a way to connect with God. Strangely, I was never involved in sports. I was more of the theater and dancing type. Growing up in a home where my father taught us how to salsa dance as he played the conga drums and the cowbell, I now understand that my constant internal rhythm is not a liability but the way by which I remember that I am alive.
My daily walk has become a unique practice of integrative meditation for me, the way by which I battle depression, social complacency, and spiritual stagnation. As I walk, my senses take in the beauty of the earth through the smell of the moist air, the daily routines of squirrels and birds, and the ever-budding life that abounds all around us (whether we notice or not). My hope is restored in the order of the world and my place in it.
As I walk, my attention is drawn to my neighbors, the woman who walks her dog daily at the same time, the homeless man living in his car two blocks from my house, and those who wait for the bus by Nap’s. I am reminded of God’s everlasting love and care for those who live in the margins and admonished to never forget that we are all the same.
As I walk, I receive God’s love for my whole self, body, mind, and spirit, and ask for God’s ongoing presence to enable me to humbly exercise my calling each day in my roles as a mentor, wife, mother, friend, professional counselor, and resident of my town and the greater world.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NIV
Susan Doak is a professional counselor in Portland, the wife of Brian Doak and mother of Nova, 6, and Junia, 2. Since moving to Newberg from Boston in 2011, she never tires of Oregon’s trees, ferns, moss, fruit, and flowers.