The start of 2022 has been a bit rough. And maybe that’s a bit of an understatement.
It followed a Christmas season that (for many people) was a challenging ordeal of sickness, canceled plans, and missed flights. Our family also experienced those disappointments as COVID slowly worked its way through several households beginning in mid-December, dragging out quarantines and delaying Christmas celebrations for weeks. In fact, we have yet to celebrate Christmas with two of our kids because of continued cases of sickness.
In the midst of the disappointments, there have been blessings. We were thankful for an unexpected extra week with our Florida grandchildren, who were unable to travel home on time because of COVID. We are incredibly grateful that no one needed to be hospitalized. And I’ve been grateful this week for the downtime I’ve been afforded (being sick now myself) to rest, read, and write.
My son and daughter-in-law gave me a “memory book” for Christmas; one of those fill-in-the-blank books which contains prompts for answering questions about your childhood. It has turned out to be a real blessing to take time to recall my early years and to fill in those pages with reminiscences.
One of the memories I wrote about was taking walks with my grandmother during the occasions when I would spend the night with her and my grandfather. In later years I would learn from my mom and her siblings that my grandmother was not always the most affectionate of parents. She was raising 5 children while running a family business with her second husband, after being tragically widowed as a young wife and mother. She was usually stressed and exhausted, and her patience would often run short. In her later years, though, she was able to relax and enjoy her grandchildren, and I have wonderful memories of her. We would take long treks to explore the pond down the street, or we would walk to the corner store where she would allow me to pick out penny candy. It was a sweet time of intimacy and companionship. She had let go of the burden of stress, and was able to take the time to stroll with me.
I thought of that memory as I read this week in Genesis 5:22 that Enoch “walked with God.” This phrase is used only of Enoch and Noah (Gen. 6:9) and, according to commentators Keil and Delitzsch, it “denotes the most confidential intercourse, the closest communion with the personal God, a walking as it were by the side of God…” Of others it is said that they walked before God, or followed after God (both admirable traits, to be sure); but only of these two is it said that they walked WITH God. There is something very sacred about that type of side-by-side relationship, a trusting dependency that indicates a complete unity of spirit in direction and purpose.
In Genesis 3:8, the Message describes this scene as Adam and Eve hid in the Garden of Eden: “When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze…”
Because of their sin, they were ashamed and hid. However, the passage implies that God’s appearance was a regular occurrence; that they would have been accustomed to “strolling with God” together in the evening breezes of Eden. What an unfathomable joy that must have been; and what devastation was wrought in their hearts as they realized the breaking of this intimate fellowship.
After their exile from the Garden, Adam and Eve raised Cain and Abel, and later their son Seth. Seth was Enoch’s five-times great-grandfather; yet because of the extraordinarily long lifespans of that era, Seth was still alive during Enoch’s lifetime (as well as all the grandfathers in between)! Enoch would quite probably have had the opportunity to hear firsthand from the son of Adam himself what it was like to “stroll with God” on a daily basis.
Whatever his spiritual influences may have been, Enoch knew enough to pursue his dedicated course. I like the way the Message Bible puts it: “Enoch walked steadily with God” (Gen. 5:22). At least one commentator agrees that this translation accurately captures the sense of the words used here, saying that “[Enoch] set himself to walk, he was fixedly purposed and determined to live to God. Those who are acquainted with the original will at once see that it has this force” (Adam Clarke). Without having the benefit of the written Scriptures or any of the other resources we enjoy today, still Enoch achieved a consistent, intimate, walk with God.
This gift was not meant to be just for the chosen few, a rare occurrence among the people of God. No, this was part of God’s plan from the beginning; that you and I would walk together with Him just as I happily strolled beside my grandmother all those years ago, sharing the sweetness of daily conversation as well as times of quiet fellowship. That is my goal for 2022; that no matter what joys or uncertainties may lie ahead, my fixed purpose is to walk side by side, hand in hand, with my loving Father.
May it be the goal for every one of us.