Michele Morrison explores the ministry of ‘walking each other home’
When the headmistress of our local secondary school was diagnosed with cancer, her life was turned upside down. She had to step out of her job temporarily as she began treatment.
Post-treatment now and looking forward to returning to work, she paid a public tribute to all those pupils, parents, and family whose support on that journey made it less lonely. She says she was overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness.
Her experience illustrates the God-inspired urge, which, when responded to positively, leads people to come alongside and support each other through life’s trials and tribulations. Paul encourages the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:3–8) to share life together – both the good times and the bad.
I am reminded of the Tough Mudder (Tough Mudder Mud Run – 10–12 miles of mud and obstacles) challenges in which there are neither winners nor losers, the object being to help each member on one’s team to overcome the obstacles so everyone reaches the finishing line together.
Life is a journey, and our assignment – and privilege – is to walk each other home. As we embrace this concept, we become more alert to opportunities to offer a helping hand, through an encouraging word or an action that lightens somebody’s load.
We are given a vibrant picture of believers walking each other home in Acts 2:44–45: “all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
As he had need. Nobody in the early church went hungry or barefoot. Neither did they face trouble without prayer support. When Peter was imprisoned, the church “was earnestly praying to God for him”, and God sent an angel to release him. Prayer is a powerful means of walking others home.
The concept of walking one another home denies the competitive urge to win the race, to be the richest, most powerful, prettiest, smartest, or have acquired the most toys. It redefines joy as a feeling derived from helping each other to navigate life’s obstacles with confidence and grace. It is church at its best. Life’s journey is arduous, traversing terrain pockmarked with spiritual attacks, financial constraints, emotional breakdowns, physical challenges and illnesses and deep grief. We all need help.
While we are lifelong walking partners with family and friends, there are many others whose paths intertwine with ours for brief periods of time only. Shared paths may have been laid through experiences or suffering. If you have fought breast cancer, you are an ideal companion for a woman just embarking on that tough struggle. If a child of yours has died, who better than you to comfort and encourage someone going through a similar traumatic experience? Whatever scars you bear, they become holy as you invite God to reach others through them.
The Christian community where we live is amazing in the alacrity with which it swings into action to provide lifts to clinics, hospitals, and church; to give meals to new parents or those suffering illness or bereavement, and to offer prayer and encouragement to those experiencing tough times.
But Jesus challenges us to go further than offering help to our sisters in Christ. His commands of how we are to treat those who might coerce us to give them possessions or time or energy (Matthew 5:38–42) may be key to restoring the lost to the right path towards home. Who knows, your cheerful acquiescence to staying late at work occasionally might cause your line manager to recognise Jesus in you and be drawn onto The Way.
The early church were called followers of The Way. By that very sobriquet, Christians are defined as pilgrims sharing the journey together, offering a shoulder to cry on and helping hands to shift or scale the avalanche of rocks which sometimes bar the way forward.
I am, at present, walking my 91-year-old mother home – but she also continues to walk me home. It has been a turbulent year and a pot-holed walk, and there have been tears. Neither of us would have chosen the path of mental confusion, but along that tough trail, clumps of wildflowers bloom in unexpected places.
As we cleared her home of 64 years, preparing it for sale, grace and love prevailed over anger and fear. She unwittingly showed me how to let go of ‘stuff’ as she patrolled the garage sale watching strangers pick through things she once chose and maybe treasured through her life. New companions helped us navigate unfamiliar terrain. Kind-hearted bank managers, compassionate telecoms technicians, helpful care professionals and dear friends and family came alongside to pray and walk us through decisions I was not comfortable or confident in making.
During these difficult months of transition I’ve been very aware of the presence of Jesus, whispering encouragement, bringing peace and guidance. I have felt the comfort and love of our Saviour and known that he is on the lonely road with mom and me. We are in the valley of the shadow of death together, all of us, and Jesus’ presence comforts us.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus were joined by Jesus, who explained the meaning of the weekend’s events. Jesus walks with us, too, and we sometimes hear him prayerfully, and sometimes through companions along the way.
There is nothing more precious than the family of God walking each other home, home to where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more separations, no more pain.
As soon as we are born, we are homeward bound. Mary must have been amazed to be tasked with the commission to get our Lord started on his walk home. From Joseph he learned a trade, which gave him understanding and compassion for humanity. And then Jesus sought teachers to explain Scriptures to him when, at age 12, he lingered behind in the Temple.
Jesus needed his friends throughout his ministry, especially the night before he died. In the garden, he craved their prayers and support, but they let him down. When Jesus collapsed beneath the weight of his cross, Simon of Cyrene – not a disciple – carried it and he received some encouragement when, pinned to the cross, one of the thieves voiced faith in him.
Because Jesus is fully human, he knows our frailty. He recognises our need for each other, and forgives us when we let each other down sometimes. Peter spectacularly failed to stand with Jesus, but he was totally forgiven. If you feel abandoned and alone now, forgive your loved ones and listen for the voice of God coming through unexpected people. If you have let someone down, accept the forgiveness of Jesus and be alert for the next opportunity.
Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of heaven is near, and as we abide in him, we are already seated in our heavenly home though we remain in the body on earth. There is a sense in which Jesus himself is home, and the joy of homecoming is real when we invite his Spirit to inhabit us.
I moved six thousand miles to live with the wonderful man I married, and I have often said that my home is wherever Don lives. But that has not always been easy; the road has been full of twists and turns and deep ruts, and frankly, if Jesus hadn’t met me and blessed me with his Spirit early on, I might very well have crashed and burned. Scotland began to feel like home to me when Jesus took up residence in my heart. Home happens where relationships of love are passionate and selfless.
As believers, we are to walk others to their home in Jesus.
May you be both comforted and challenged by the sentiment that life is all about walking each other home. It is a phrase which resonates deeply within my spirit, and I pray it enriches yours as well.
How you might walk others home
Be kind — Random Acts of Kindness impact others more than we usually know.
Give — A small gift, an encouraging card, or a modest donation can be a real boost to someone flagging.
Lighten up — Tell a funny story, or share a funny YouTube clip. Laughter is a great healer.
Listen. — Many founder simply because they’ve got no sympathetic ear to hear them.
Obey — God often prompts us to do things, and those things are bound to be powerful because they will come at just the right time for the person struggling.
Offer — Lifts, meals, to visit, to walk the baby or even the dog. Stress takes a high toll and moments of release can be a lifeline to those struggling along the way.
Pray — For and with people. Discern what the Spirit is saying and act on it.
Share your faith — There is widespread spiritual famine and many seek to satisfy it in destructive ways.
Spend time — Share a bench or a pavement with a homeless person.
Touch. — A hug or a pat on the arm offers consolation and comfort.