Just a few feet from where I sit, my father lies asleep in his hospital bed. He has just finished a round of physical therapy, learning to use his walker to navigate his way around his room and down the hallway and back. After a couple of seizures, he is trying to regain his strength and reacquaint his body and mind with the normally automatic task of walking. His legs are weak. His balance is off. But he made it around the nursing station and back to his room without incident. I am learning a few things as well. For instance, it is a requirement that he wear a plain-looking canvas belt when he walks. This is not to hold his pants up. It is for me to hold on to should he falter and begin to fall. You see, my dad needs my help. I am not there to hold him up. My job is to provide support – just in case. As we slowly made our way around the third floor corridor, my dad had to supply the power and perseverance. I supplied a watchful eye and a readiness to respond should he lose his balance. We were a team. A very slow, somewhat awkward team, but a team nonetheless. The therapist said he is not allowed to take a walk without me. I am his perambulating partner. Where he goes, I go. Where he walks, I walk.
It got me to thinking. Isn’t that what the church is all about? There are those of who are weak and unsteady in our spiritual journey. We have to keep on walking, but we are not supposed to do it alone. There are those of us who are to come alongside and provide a steady hand and an encouraging presence. It is not our job to walk for them, but to walk with them. We are to come alongside. The Greek word used in the New Testament is parakaleo. It means to come alongside, to encourage, strengthen and comfort. It is a picture of community, but also close proximity. It’s hard to comfort from a distance. It’s difficult to encourage when you’re unwilling to get close enough to be seen and heard. I can tell my dad I’m there for him, but if he turns around and doesn’t see me, he won’t feel much support from me. The truth is, walking alongside my dad with my hand slipped into his belt isn’tt exactly exciting. It’s a bit boring and somewhat monotonous. It feels like I’m not doing much of anything. I’m just kind of in the background, playing my part, without much fanfare or recognition. But when you’re doing a job like this one, you really don’t want to have to do anything. I don’t want to have to catch my dad so he won’t fall. I want our walks to be uneventful and unexciting, at least as far as my part goes.
The Christian walk is difficult and filled with potential tripping points along the way. There are those in our midst who have been weakened by cares of life. They are unbalanced and unsteady on their spiritual feet. They need spiritual therapy in order to regain their strength and increase their confidence. They need support. They need others who will walk alongside them, providing a steady hand, a watchful eye, an encouraging word and the comfort of their silent presence. They need to know we’re there. They need to know we care. Encouraging words are great. But an engaging presence is even better. I’ll walk with my dad as long as he needs me. I will gladly play the role of the silent supporter. I am there for him, holding on to his belt, so he can hold on to his hope of walking again – steadily and strongly. Who needs support in your life today? What individual might God place in your path who might need your hand on their belt and your presence at their side to steady their way as they learn to walk the path of faith? Keep your eyes open. Be ready. There is no shortage of weak and wobbly believers out there. In fact, you could be one yourself.