Cover image for Walk on : life, loss, trust, and other realities
Walk on : life, loss, trust, and other realities
Goldingay, John.
Personal Author:
Revised and updated.
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, [2002]

Physical Description:
200 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: To the usual suspects. Carlisle [England] : Paternoster, 1998.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
BV4501.3 .G65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A sensible and sophisticated look at the realities of living the Christian life.

Author Notes

John Goldingay (Ph.D., University of Nottingham) is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Goldingay, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and for 27 years a principal at St. John's Theological Seminary in Nottingham, England, offers this book on the foundational questions all Christians ask in their spiritual journeys. It could easily be compared to the later works of C.S. Lewis when his faith had been tempered by suffering. Goldingay's view of the Christian life is tempered by the prism of his wife Ann's long fight with multiple sclerosis. It would be easy to feel sorry for this couple, but Goldingay does not allow pity. Instead, his touching story reaches out to readers with a mature joy, demonstrating that it is not only possible to survive pain and tragedy, but to triumph in the midst of excruciating circumstances. "Following Christ is a hard road," he writes, "but little by little you will see the light in the darkness and drink the water that springs from a dry land." Goldingay notes that through the years, friends, students and colleagues have become the wellspring of living water poured out to him and his wife, and, in turn, they continue to pour out God's joy to others. This theologically and biblically sound book is not linear, just as life never takes a straight path. Rather, the topics are arranged alphabetically so that the reader can dip in anywhere for refreshment. References to contemporary music and Ann's story are intertwined with sophisticated, engrossing and thought-provoking answers to spiritual questions. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Ascent I have long puzzled over a particular question about our relationship with God. The Bible seems to assume that this relationship is characterized by love and joy and enthusiasm. At the same time, the great spiritual writers suggest that the development of a relationship with God involves being more and more at home with dryness and darkness, with desert and unknowing. Is there any way of reconciling these two views? I suppose the question interests me partly because I feel that my own life with God has gotten tougher over the years, even over the past week, but also more joyful, even over the past week. And the question more than interests me; it bothers me pastorally, because I see other people whose lives seem to get tougher without becoming more joyful. They become depressed or disillusioned or resentful instead. What are we to expect as our lives develop? If you have known the joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit, what happens next? Just more of that? If things become tough, does it mean something is wrong? Does God give us nice feelings when we are young and expect us to live tougher lives when we are older? Is it the way people sometimes talk about marriage-the lovey-dovey stuff belongs to the beginning, and as the years go by, you should expect it to grow into something more solid (which is code for something more boring)? I acknowledge I am too much of a romantic to accept that lying down. It is worth asking these questions because we need to be able to recognize what God is doing with us and to seek what God wants for us. Sometimes people find that the going gets tough and they have no way of looking at how God might be involved when things are tough. This experience can become something you just have to live your way through until it is over, but if that is all you do, it may not produce its fruit. How can life with God be joyful and tough, tough and joyful? The nearest I have to an answer comes in the form of a story. It is a story that can be interpreted heretically, so have mercy on it at those points. The Woman of the Mountains There was a town near the foothills of a mountain range. Living there, you could not help but be aware of the reality of the mountains, though most of the people in the town ignored them much of the time. There was a woman of the mountains who would visit the town. She brought with her the smell of the mountains, the freshness, the liveliness, the strength, the awesomeness of them. There was a man who was captivated by her, and the two of them fell in love. Their relationship gave him a new kind of acquaintance with the mountains, a new kind of experience of them. It made him more aware of them. He knew that he would never be satisfied until he had climbed them. One spring day when there were other things to do, she whispered that the time had come, and she took his hand. There was no time to buy mountain boots; he went in the sandals he always wore in spring and summer. They walked hand-in-hand through the outskirts of the town as daffodils came out and children played and men dug their gardens, and he began to realize that he was saying good-bye. Not that he would never see the town again, but he would never see it the same way again. Once he had been to the mountains, it would not be the same town. On the edge of the town the highway curved away to the left, down the valley toward the coast, but as it began to curve, a dirt road continued straight ahead toward the green and earthy and purple slopes and peaks. The sounds of children and of traffic began to fade, the sound of birds and the smell of grass began to increase, and the sun warmed his back. Each hour they walked, he became more filled with a sense of well-being, happiness, and love. They had their arms around each other's waists, and he could feel the softness of her flesh just above her hip and her fingers on the muscular hardness of his own side. He did not think he had ever been happier, and yet he knew he was only beginning a journey. After a couple of hours the fields became woods and the dirt road became a path that started to climb. At noon they emerged from the woods to find themselves on a craggy edge from which they could look back over the way they had come. They stopped for a picnic. They talked about the mountains and about the way they had met, about their love and about this journey. And then she said they had to begin walking again. The climb was to become serious. They were above the tree line now, and the terrain was more rugged. There was still a path; in fact, there were a number of them. He suddenly realized that he could see other figures on these paths-walking a bit desultorily, it must be said. It was not clear where these paths went, and she seemed to ignore them. It was not obvious to him why her route made more sense than the other paths, but he had no alternative but to follow. And he meant follow . Previously, they had walked hand-in-hand. They had strolled, really. Now she led the way. It was partly a practical thing: The way had become narrower, often steep and rocky, and he needed to grab hold of rocks from time to time to help him along. But besides that, she seemed to have become more decisive and dynamic, to have a more specific idea about where she wanted to take him. The playful happiness of the stroll and the picnic seemed to have quite gone. If he thought about it, the odd thing was that he had no less sense of their being together. But he did not have time to think about it much; he was too busy concentrating on the climb, on the difference between safe rocks and loose rocks, on keeping his footing on a particularly narrow ridge. He was surprised that his sandals coped with it all, but they did. At 3:00 they again stopped for a breather, and again it was a place that gave him a chance to look back to the town and over the way they had come. They had walked for five hours, about four and three-quarters more than he was used to; he was a man who was normally insulated from the countryside by steel, glass, and rubber. The climb since lunch had taken it out of him. It was difficult now to remember the lightheartedness with which they had walked through the suburbs just a few hours ago. They did not talk the way they had when they were strolling rather than climbing of the way they had over lunch. Yet as they sat in silence, he had a strange sense that their awareness of being together was at least as strong. They knew that they were with each other on a crucial journey that was important for her as well as for him. She so much wanted to take him to the top of the mountain where she belonged. It was also becoming difficult to remember the sun on his back. He realized that a mist was descending. It was cold, and as they sat there, he put on his sweater. Then she hauled him to his feet. She had never done that before. It was again as if the time for words was over for a while. For an instant she looked at him with love in her eyes, then she slapped him on the behind and turned around to begin the walk into the mist. She seemed to know exactly where she was going, though he did not know how. She seemed even more decisive and directed than before, almost a different person from the dancing woman of the mountains who had originally won his heart. But he did not mind. It was like the unveiling of something. This new experience did not take away from what he knew of her before, and what he knew of her before and had fallen in love with made it quite possible to trust this new tougher revelation. So in a strange way, as he struggled to keep up with her in the mist, he found that the love he felt in his heart was increasing in its wonder, though he did not have time to think too many romantic thoughts. Some of the time he was just wishing he had brought a thicker sweater. At one point they had to walk along another narrow ridge, and it was a bit scary. He had no idea how far he would go if he fell. Then they had to scrabble up some steep scree, and again he did not like to think about the consequences of losing his footing. Eventually, he had the chance to find out, because he slipped. Like magic she was there, knowing how to make the best use of her weight to enable him to regain his balance. He remembered the story about the two pairs of footsteps becoming one, and he knew that in reality it was a fantasy. He would never be carried (actually, he did not want to be). He would always have to do his own walking, but he would never be alone. And when she smiled at him for a moment as they stood, still a bit precariously, he saw love in her eyes again and realized how much it meant to her that he was making this journey. He loved her back with a new kind of tenderness and commitment and fierceness that he had never felt in his little house back in the town. In time the mist half cleared, though they could still not see beyond a hundred yards where they were going or where they had been. They had that experience you have with some mountains, when ahead of you rises another ridge and it looks as if it must be the last one, and you think it had better be the last one because you have climbed enough, thank you, and whose silly idea was this anyway, and why are you not playing in the street or digging in the garden? But you climb it, and the reward is-another ridge to face another few hundred yards farther on. At least now that the slope was more open she could walk alongside him and make a joke of two at his expense, though she would never say whether the next ridge would be the last, and he began to wonder whether she knew or whether this journey contained surprises for her too. But he never stopped trusting her, and he never stopped loving her and thrilling at taking this journey with her and seeing the look of love in her eyes from time to time. They came over yet another ridge, and just when he had stopped believing it could be the last ... it was. An extraordinary vista opened before them. The mist was gone, and the sun was shining. They were on top of the world. Once again they could look back on the town from which they had come. They could also look in the opposite direction, and it was an extraordinary scene. They could see the layer of mist below the peak, but beyond the mountains the mist disappeared, and they could gaze as far as the coast. He could see the belt of sand and the sun glinting on the waves. But his eyes also took in the flat top of the mountain. He suddenly realized that he had not asked where they were to eat or sleep, given that it would be near evening before they reached the summit. He only realized this because as he looked across this little flat mountaintop he saw a picnic laid out: blankets to sit on, a tablecloth, a basket of bread and a bottle of wine, and a man wrestling with a corkscrew. The woman of the mountains ran to the man and they hugged, and he saw the same twinkle and the same affection in the man's eyes that he loved in the woman's eyes, and he knew this was also his father. He walked up to him shyly but with a kind of confidence that made it possible for them to embrace, because they had her in common and because they knew that they belonged to each other because of the love they shared from her and for her. The three of them talked about the climb and about the forest and the scree and the mist and the dangerous moments and the falls and the ridges that never seemed to come to an end. But they also talked about the way it was all possible because he and she were together and because of their love for each other and because he trusted her. They ate bread and drank wine and looked in wonder over the vista. They sat in the warm silence of the evening. They talked about the people in the town who did not know her and the people who did know her but who had never been drawn to climb the mountain. And they talked about the other people they had seen on the mountain. No one had fallen off; there had been no indication of fatal falls. But they had seen people who felt tempted to give up or were on paths that would lead to the top only by a very long way around, people who could not understand why it was such a hard climb, people who had stopped climbing on the sunny lower slopes to pick daisies and enjoy the sun or who had got stuck higher up because they found it all too hard. Each of these people seemed to be walking alone of thought they were walking alone; they did not see themselves as walking with the woman of the mountains. The two with aching limbs but with love in their eyes agreed to go and tell them that they did not walk alone and to invite them to look up and see the love in the eyes of the woman of the mountains who was walking with them and who mediated and promised the presence of the one who laid the picnic feast, even when it did not feel as if he were anywhere near-to invite them to look and see the love in her eyes that was for them, for you. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For Below my notes for that story it says, "Following Christ is a hard road, but little by little you will see the light in the darkness and drink the water that springs from a dry land." I do not know where that came from; my friends sometimes add things to my files when I leave the computer switched on, and so perhaps do other angels, whether it is switched on of not. In theory, when you come to know Christ, you have found fulfillment. You have found what you were hungry for. There is a song by U2 that talks about having climbed the highest mountains so as to be with God, about having run and crawled and scaled city walls, about having spoken with the tongues of angels and held the hand of the devil, about believing that Christ broke the bonds and loosed the chains and carried the cross and all my shame ... yet it also declares that nevertheless "I'm still running" because "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." In terms of spirituality, even when you have found what you were hungry for, you continue to look forward. St. John of the Cross, who first made me think about the motif of the mountain because it is prominent in his own writing on spirituality, also sees us as moving through attraction and engagement to a marriage relationship with Christ, yet he still speaks of a final consummation that lies in the future. Continue... Excerpted from Walk On by John Goldingay Copyright © 2002 by John Goldingay Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 7
1 Ascentp. 19
2 Calamityp. 27
3 Chutzpahp. 41
4 Communityp. 48
5 Darknessp. 62
6 Friendshipp. 70
7 Hopep. 78
8 Identityp. 89
9 Joyp. 96
10 Lifep. 102
11 Lovep. 110
12 Realismp. 118
13 Rememberingp. 128
14 Repentancep. 134
15 Resurrectionp. 139
16 Strugglep. 149
17 Tearsp. 155
18 Trustp. 162
19 Turbulencep. 174
20 Vocationp. 185
Epiloguep. 197
Notesp. 199