Wailing Walks

God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:19, ESV


Our neighborhood is great! At least it was until we moved in. Now, I’m not so sure.

First is our landscaping. My husband keeps the grass mowed, weeds out, and shrubs trimmed, but one of our sons enjoys practicing his batting skills on our trees. I also buy and plant beautiful flowers but can't seem to remember to water them.

Next are our outdoor activities. One neighbor requested we remove the homemade ropes course our son built in the trees. He was concerned it might decrease his home’s value. Another neighbor called the cops when they heard a kid in our backyard yelling, “Help!” Turns out our children were role playing a Marvel movie they had recently seen.

Then there’s one neighbor’s car and another’s mailbox. I’m sure you already know where this is going. Both have revealed my ability to be a distracted driver and passenger.

Finally, the most disturbing of all is what I called our “Wailing Walks.” Let me explain.

We adopted our youngest two children from Rwanda when they were preschoolers. Blending their early developmental trauma with our imperfect parenting skills has led to some challenges. When my daughter was ten, one of her chores was to walk the family dog with me—which she hated. She always made sure I was aware of her displeasure. Stuck in her negative emotions, she typically spent the first ten minutes of our walks wailing. Not just sniffling, but screaming and moaning while plodding ten yards behind. So upset, she avoided walking close to me.

I often wondered what those within earshot were thinking as she wailed down the street: Which neighbor is calling the Department of Social Services (DSS)? Who is rehearsing helpful parenting tips to share with me later that aren’t so helpful for kids with trauma? Which neighbors will head back inside because we’ve interrupted their peaceful time on the porch?

Every few minutes I’d ask if she wanted a hug or to talk about her “big” feelings, but her feet always needed to walk a few blocks before she would comply. As her mom, I knew what the passersby might not: the exertion of the walk would help my daughter regulate physically so she could connect with me emotionally.  

Like clockwork, she’d eventually catch up, apologize, and slip into rhythm beside me, relishing our relationship while enduring the task. The initial drama was exhausting—for both of us—but we persevered and our wailing walks transformed into smooth strolls.

I’m reminded of a similar walk in Scripture when God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt towards freedom. Though He performed a myriad of miracles along the way, we can “hear” their constant whining and complaining throughout Numbers and Deuteronomy. 

God’s people were thirsty. They were weary. They were tired of manna, walking, tents, and deserts. They would forget God’s glorious provision and fail to trust Him. God led them with His outstretched arm, but they prioritized feelings of comfort over walking in faith with Him.

I’m no different. God has led me on some difficult walks throughout my life. Walks I have not enjoyed. Walks that were tiring and painful, and some that were merely inconvenient. When I have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other, I wonder how much time I waste wailing. How much time I waste pouting and lagging behind God when I could be savoring our precious relationship by walking beside Him. As I walk through the valley of shadows, I want to enjoy His peaceful presence and walk with Him in faithful obedience with my whole being, not just my feet.

So many faith-walkers have gone before us and struggled like we do; but they kept the faith and stayed the course. For example:

  • When Abraham walked the painful trail to Mount Moriah because God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, he believed God would provide the lamb. (Genesis 22)
  • When the Israelites walked around the city of Jericho for seven days straight, they were confident that God would faithfully fulfill His word. (Joshua 6)
  • When Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego walked about in a fiery furnace, they trusted in the provision of their ever-present Savior. (Daniel 3)
  • When Jesus walked the road to Calvary, He endured the cross, the scorning and its shame, all for the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2)

Our journey is not as hard when we fix our eyes on the One who walks with us, goes before us, and always has our back. Christ enables our feet to cling firmly to the heights of mountains like those of a deer and  encourages us to walk on. When our relationship with Jesus becomes the focus of the journey, our wailing stops and our worship begins.

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