Let’s flaneur

Have you ever flaneured? If you would’ve asked me that a few days ago, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you because I had never heard of flaneuring.

To flaneur is to walk. But it’s more than that. Well, until it isn’t.

To flaneur is to walk, to stroll with one intent: to take notice. The old advice is to stop and smell the roses. Well, we’ve become too sedentary. So, get flaneuring!

To flaneur is to “wander with intention.” In other words, your goal is not to make walking the task itself, even if there are benefits. Instead, your goal is to notice what you see along the walk.

I have a friend who posts pictures of her morning walk that are of the trash she comes across. She wonders what the story is behind the empty beer bottle, the tennis ball or t-shirt left alongside the road. It’s been a while, but my walking times were like this for me. At first, I would wear headphones to listen to the Bible, catch up on podcasts and finish off with music. When I stopped wearing the headphones, that’s when I became a flaneur, without knowing it, of course.

This kind of attention helps us see what we otherwise miss. And most of us miss a lot.

Flaneuring might also help us wander with intention in our walk with God.

You know what it means to go through the motions. Some of you know what that feels like, too. Going through the motions doesn’t let you notice much more than how close it is to noon on a Sunday morning. You’re more consumed by how many times you have to sit and stand in a worship gathering, not hearing the words you’re singing to God, not connecting to the prayers of your congregation or not realizing the God of all Creation is speaking to you through scripture.

If we aren’t paying attention to all that God is speaking to us, what are we really offering to the world?

I love the image in Isaiah 2. God says that all nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord’s house. They’ll come to learn the ways of God so they can walk in his paths. Instruction comes out of Zion. As a result, a transformation takes place: they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.

How I pray for swords to turn to plowshares today!

As the church, though, we aren’t going to teach the world the ways of God if we aren’t noticing God. We’ll be too consumed by our own needs and goals. Is the church guilty of learning war? In a lot of ways, we’re too caught up with the ways of the world ourselves to recognize the kind of transformation God desires.  

So, maybe we should flaneur a little.

Whatever you do today, you’re walking with God. As you walk, ask the Lord to show you where your attention should be. Notice the stories of people in pain, stories of loss and desperation. Notice the struggles people are enduring.

Now, you don’t always have to do something. God is working, you know. There’s kingdom value in wandering with intention and learning how to simply live out the ways of God for a world in need to see.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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