Three mile an hour teacher


Three mile an hour teacher[1]

It should come as no surprise that the Bible is full of walking, but the idea that it was merely a mode of transport is far from the truth.

When Paul wanted to go to Assos, he sent the rest of the missionary team around the peninsula by boat and walked across without them.[2] Jesus saw Peter and John as he was walking by the shore of Lake Galilee[3] and later, he sent his disciples across the same sea, leaving himself to walk around alone.[4] He ended up walking across the water but that is another story. What is it that causes biblical characters to choose to walk and what is it about walking that makes it so valuable for theological educators?

Walking is a place without words

When the saints of old talked about silence, they did not mean the absence of the wind in the trees but the absence of words. Our society has a love affair with words. They talk to you out of advertising boards, TV, newspapers, books, radios in cars. Our faith is a very wordy faith. The Reformation began in universities and it shows. Above all, theological education deals with words, We read, write, speak, assess words. It is the most wordy job in the world.

In fact, words gain power in proportion to their absence. Henri Nouwen argues persuasively that words spoken out of silence are more powerful than words spoken out of busyness.[5] Nouwen took his own advice and spent a number of retreats at the Trappist monastery in Genesee during his busy teaching duties at Yale. Walking is our own little retreat from words into silence.

Walking is for healing

As Dr Johnson said, the two best doctors are often the left foot and the right foot. Ajith Fernando from Sri Lanka talks about how he copes with stress and the way it deadens his spiritual life;

“During this time, I developed the discipline of walking, sometimes two or three miles until I felt the joy of the Lord return.”[6]

There is a quietness of spirit which comes over us as we walk, especially if it can be within the beauty of nature, a dis-connection from the stresses of a life which our society dictates must be lived at such a high speed, and a return to a natural speed not only of our body but also our mind. And walking gives us the absence of doing, to create healing space for us to think about being.

Walking is so as not to be alone

Walking on your own is saying that people are a joy and blessing but we need time without them. In fact, the three things modern man seems unable to be without –busyness, words and people – are all put on one side when you walk. But it is not to be alone, it is to be alone with God.

God is always with us, he is everywhere, even in our busyness but that is not what we usually mean when we speak of the presence of God. What we mean is attention, to fully enjoy the presence of the other. This is the opportunity walking gives us with God. As the Japanese theologian Kosoke Koyama says, we have a “three mile an hour God”.[7]

Now, why don’t you close the computer and go for a walk?



[1]This material was previously published in The Theological Educator

[2] Acts 20 v 13.

[3] Matthew 4 v 18.

[4] Matthew 14 vs 22-25.

[5] Henri Nouwen The Way of the Heart, New York, Ballantine Books, 1981, pp9f.

[6] Ajith Fernando An Authentic Servant, Singapore, OMF International, 1999 p3.

[7] Kosuke Koyama, Three Mile an Hour God¸ Neew York, SCM, 1979, pp3ff.

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3 Comments on “Three mile an hour teacher”

  1. Joe Simfukwe Says:

    And it is interesting that the rest of the life of faith uses the image of walking. True, Paul does speak of running the race, but walk, easily takes the day

  2. Jim Murdoch Says:

    Thanks Graham, wise words and so needed in our fast world, that constantly urges us to speed up and go faster! Church, college life is so easily lived in a system of diary entries. Even our Journaling in association with our spiritual living, tends to become a noting of things done and lessons learned. But God in Scripture moves to a slower beat than we do! Years go by where we expect Him to act within a day or at least two! We are mystified at why our Lord Jesus lived in obscurity for thirty years! Why did Paul not preach and teach immediately following his cnversion without those three years in Arabia?
    May we truly make each hour count but sometimes that will be ‘sleeping;’ sometimes ‘reading’; sometimes ‘praying’; sometimes ‘speaking’; sometimes ‘worshipping’; sometimes ‘relaxing’.
    Why are we obsessed with doing! Let us walk! ‘Lord, let me walk today.

  3. Allan Says:

    Ahhh… the joys of trying to slow down. It’s intriguing that we use the phrase “walk the talk” – perhaps it takes on added significance in the light of your reflections, Graham.

    It’s a constant challenge in theological education. I think of one TE institution I was in where faculty were complaining that the students weren’t giving enough attention to the intentional but non-classroom-based spiritually formative activities (prayer days, etc). We discovered that more than 25% of the students that semester were registered for significantly more than what was considered to be a ‘full course load’ – so that they could complete their programs quicker. Clearly, a need for institutional “walking the talk”!

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