The following blog was written by Renee Dugan, a full-time staff member with Spirit & Truth Fellowship Int’l.

Most mornings before work, I take a 20 minute walk through the neighborhood behind my house. Since I live about two blocks from the office, this gives me time to burn off the energy of my morning coffee, brainstorm whatever novel I’m currently writing, and puts me in the doors right at the start of the workday. But on bitterly cold mornings when the wind is blowing strong, sometimes I cheat and walk straight to work instead, because, let’s face it, it’s too dang cold to justify all of that nonsense.

On one particular morning recently that was just slightly on the abominably cold side, timing was on my side, because in skipping my routine walk, I happened upon an elderly German Shepherd lost and wandering the parking lot of a business half a block from my destination. Being a dog person from my head to my toes, I eagerly called him over; to my delight, he came running for an ear-scratching, and tagged along at my heels as I walked. No matter how far he strayed to sniff dirt mounds or to check the message at our property’s lonely fire hydrant, he always came jogging back to fall into step right beside me, all the way to the office door. The result was a perfect end to my morning walk and a sense of security that’s sometimes absent as I walk through the industrial park, alone, a girl, in the barely-broken dawn.

The experience got me reflecting on just how important it is to be part of a group. Even just two people walking together can feel safer than one alone. It provides a sense of camaraderie, protection, and “safety in numbers”. It gives us someone to talk to and share our time with (even if, as in my case, you’re talking to a dog). Jesus himself very rarely traveled alone, and the records of the Gospels paint a picture of a Rabbi who abounded with proverbs and parables that he often told to his followers as they walked. In Jesus’ darkest hour of greatest need, he even brought his disciples with him to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he then went off a ways to pray. And once his friends had scattered, he still wasn’t alone; his Father was with him.

Sometimes I forget the fact that I’m not alone, either. Though God and Jesus are never far away, I tend not to engage with them unless the need is urgent. But just like the men on the road to Emmaus, Jesus walks beside me. He walks beside you, too. He’s as close as a prayer, as a quiet conversation on a calm, chilly morning. Often when it feels like Jesus is far away, it’s because we’ve put distance there; but even when that happens, closing the breach is as simple as reaching out and telling him, “I need you here.” No matter how far we’ve strayed, we can curve right back and walk side by side with him.

God’s love is a redemptive love; it’s a correctional love, but also a protective one. He has defended His people countless times throughout the ages, walking beside them, preparing them, helping them to face their problems. Whatever need, whatever obstacle, whatever sense of loneliness and distance overtakes our hearts and minds, we must always remember that “not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

For those who may be curious, my walking buddy made it back to his owner two businesses away, safe and sound almost as soon as he “dropped me off” at the office. So it looks like I’ll be walking alone tomorrow…but not really. I have Someone I can talk to—and every so often He sends me reminders, like a visit from a dog, so that my day is made and I remember that I’m never alone.