“I am old and move slowly.” SOCRATES
When I was a much younger man, I used to run several miles a day. When my knees gave out, I began to walk – first aerobically and then slowly.
Now I saunter. Henry David Thoreau in an essay on walking, explains the origin of the word saunter. He says the term comes from the Middle Ages when wandering pilgrims would beg for alms to finance their journey to “la saint terre,” the Holy Land. Such people became known as “sainte-terrers,” or “saunterers.”
I can’t vouch for the origin of the word, and I understand Thoreau’s theory is in doubt these days, but I like his explanation better than any I’ve heard, for I myself am a saunterer, a wandering pilgrim, begging for grace, making my way toward the City of God.
Let’s hear it for sauntering! My dictionary defines the word as “to wander or walk about idly and in a leisurely or lazy manner; to lounge; to stroll; to loiter.” That’s me: God’s loiterer, in no particular hurry, taking time to see the world around me and sample it along the way.
Very few people saunter these days. Most folks are in a hurry – speed – walking or racing around on mountain bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards. I wonder where they are going or if they know why.
The same may be said for those who follow Christ. So many seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere and do something, running off to this meeting or that, signing up for one course or another, frantically working out their own salvation, sanctification, and service for God as though everything depends on them. I wish they knew how to saunter.
Sauntering is an art. It grows out of the conviction that “all this is from God” (2 Cor. 5:18). It’s rest and peace to know that every aspect of our pilgrimage is in His hands. He has freed us from past sin and guilt and is freeing us now from its power. Our destiny is not riding on anything we do or have done or have failed to do. It rests on the work of One who is faithful to the end.
Writer Thomas Merton suggests that we “go for walks, live in peace, let change come quietly and invisibly on the inside.”
I find Merton’s words reassuring. We can trust God to bring completion to the process He has begun. Whatever change takes place in us will come quietly, slowly, occurring in some secret hidden part of us and often imperceptible except in retrospect. It may be years later that we see what God has been doing all along.
In the meantime, while we saunter toward heaven and home, we can begin to pay attention to those around us. We can take every occasion to listen, to love, and to pray, knowing that we don’t have to rush about and make things happen; God himself is preparing good works for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
Thoreau often wrote with luminous insight. Thus he concludes his essay on sauntering: “So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done….”
Thoreau was wiser than he knew. Someday soon “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his rays” (Mal. 4:2). Then the Son “shall shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in Autumn.”
And then we shall settle into a perfect pace.
Our Daily Bread Ministries ~ April, May, June 2017