Keep in Step with God

By Julie Rhodes

I’m not sure you really feel like a parent until your child begins piano lessons. Diaper changing, medicine administration, and storybook reading are mere warm-ups for presiding over a piano practice session. To stand over a child’s shoulder and endure every painful note, and every painful pause between every painful note, is the definition of taking up your cross. If I come out on the other side of piano practice with all my fingernails still in tact, I feel a deep assurance of my salvation. 

It will be a long time before Drew tackles music containing complicated key signatures or time signatures; it will even be a while before he is given musicality directions like “Forte” (play loudly) or “Piano” (play softly). Right now, he is just plodding through notes, notes that trudge one after another like prisoners in a chain gang. 

A few weeks ago, I was working on a song of my own for an upcoming audition. I was very worried about my chances, and was sloshing around like a big Gatorade cooler spilling over with insecurity. I noticed the directive given at the top of the music: “Moderato.” The song should be sung at a moderato tempo — a walking-pace. 

When I hear “walking pace”, I think of the elderly woman with the hot pink Nike shirt that propels herself up Wilshire Rd. with a will to power. She walks faster than I run, and she seems to know and savor this when we pass each other on the street every morning. But the truth is that in musical theory, moderato is more of a marching pace — more measured and even and unhurried. Not too fast, not too slow. A steady song.

Christians talk often about “walking with God,” and for good reason. From way back in Genesis, people have been doing it. Adam and Eve “walked with God” in the cool of the garden. The Old Testament describes its heroes like Noah as having “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). One of these more shadowy heroes is Enoch, seven generations removed from old Adam himself, whom the Bible describes this way: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” 


Hebrews 11 expounds a bit: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” (vs. 5)

It’s generally accepted that God can raise the dead, but we do not often ponder that God could bypass death altogether for someone very special. And what made Enoch so special? Maybe a lot of things, but the shorthand for it seems to be that he “walked faithfully with God.” He embraced moderato. Which I think means he kept alongside God. He kept up with God, and hung back with God, and generally did not try to either outpace or lag behind God. He lived a steady song. This is a possibility for us, too, even though we live cute little Target-going lives in our iPhone cocoons, and even though we so often feel ruled by our calendars and by our cravings. We can choose with whom and how fast we walk through life, and a God-free, frenetic journey is available if we opt for it. But Enoch did not. 

When Jesus admonishes his would-be followers to “take up their cross” and follow him, it seems a reasonable application of the metaphor to assume you couldn’t walk very fast with a cross on your back. People who walk with God have in some sense suffered a death to stay beside him, if only a death to the pace at which they would like to travel through life. 

In the book of Galatians, Paul admonishes his readers to “keep in step with the Spirit,” and watch the fruits of the spirit unfurl in your life. Keeping in step, like a moderato march, is the only way to do it. There is no running on ahead and bearing love/joy/peace anyway. 

This is all terribly inconvenient.

If you’re like me, you don’t aspire to Enoch-esque fame. You have no illusions of living to be 350 years old and then being gathered up to heaven. You would just like to remember your driving manners today. But maybe there is an area of your life that is moving too slowly, or moving too quickly — or so it seems to you — and it’s time to embrace it anyway. Or maybe it’s just that today you feel restless, unable to accept today it for what it is — and it’s time to just chillax about it. We only live one day at a time, one hour at a time, and God can seem like a child loitering at a patch of dandelions. (Or like a 9-year-old practicing piano with little eternities between each note.) We struggle — so much! all the time! — to accept the long, steady pace of a heaven-ward walk with God.  But maybe today is the day to start. 

“Take up the cross of the present moment,” writes Brennan Manning. It’s much harder than it sounds. But in my clearest moments — after coffee — it seems like an assignment worth trying to embrace, a life-tempo worth trying to calibrate. Today.

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