With the release of my interview on the Ailbe podcast, I thought I’d take a short break from my slow examination of Isaiah (61 posts to this point!) and talk about the key ingredient to my 8:18 experiences.
Remember, this column is based on Jesus’s questions in Mark 8:18:
“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?”
Jesus’s point is that having a physical eye, ear and mind does not ensure that we can perceive the important things in the world around us. There is first an issue of attentiveness. We all know that sinking feeling when we realize that we have no idea what the person speaking to us has been saying for the past half-minute.
So, an Awareness Walk, on the surface, is an exercise in training oneself to notice. There’s a deeper part to this, as well, but I’ll delve into that in a coming post.
For now, let’s talk about how to get started on an Awareness Walk.
Step 1: set aside at least 30 minutes. The key here is not to rush. Noticing takes a slower pace.
Step 2: decide where to walk. The more familiar you are with the location, the harder it is to notice. It’s not that there aren’t things worthy of seeing or hearing, it’s just that we’re blinded by our acquaintance with them. I recommend walking someplace new, if possible. (Many of my pre-pandemic posts were in cities I was visiting for work.) But if you can’t, God can still speak. I’ve had significant observations in my well-traversed neighborhood. And even sitting in my house! (But this guide doesn’t include an Awareness Sit. Plus, it would need a catchier title.)
Step 3: pray. As you start your walk, ask God to open your senses – something like, Lord, what do you want to show me? What do you want to teach me? This is so important, for it changes this process from an internal monologue to a dialogue with God. In essence, you ask him to speak to you through the world around you (aka, Creational Theology).
Step 4: walk and pay attention. Next time, I’ll give you a practical guide on what to look for and listen to. But for now, watch for anything surprising. Something that stands out. The play of light. Stark contrast. Evidence of human narrative. Beauty in all its forms.
Step 5: take a photo. Don’t overlook this step. I know that taking a photo of something in public might be intimidating, but in this age of social media posting, it’s not an uncommon occurrence. Your photo can help you in the following steps.
Step 6: mull it over. I have often found that all my Awareness Walk does is plant a seed that I have to let germinate over time. During that interval, I connect it to Scripture. And I meditate on the truth to aid the growing realization.
Step 7: respond in prayer. This is a dialogue. The Lord has pointed out something to you, so keep the conversation going. Depending on what you noticed, your response could be confession, commitment or worship. Or perhaps, simply asking for further clarification.
Step 8: tell someone. The best way to embed this new truth into your life is to share the process with a friend. Show the photo. Explain what it caused you to think about. It will increase your joy and encourage others to expect God to show up in the world around them, as well.
My dream is that someday we’ll have 8:18 Societies – whole gatherings of people who share with each other how they have met God in the world around them.
But for now, get your sneakers on. And start walking.
God is waiting for you.
Father, your word teaches us that anywhere we go, we find you. We go out with a sense of expectancy. Lord, what do you want us to see, what do you want us to learn?
Reader: I’d love to hear about your experiences if you try this. And share your photo. I’m more than happy to be your Step #8!