Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hiking Uphill

Last year we chose the camp theme of ‘Ascend.’ The story we painted was that our lives are like a hike. Christ is the guide hiking alongside us, and we are aiming to summit the mountain which we clearly see set before us. The ‘surprise ending’ to this story is that once we get to the peak of the mountain, there are many more mountaintops beyond that come into view. Life doesn’t stop there on the mountaintop. We enjoy the view, rest, and pick up our pack to take on the next mountain.

Today is a day of reflection for me. I hiked 30 minutes uphill on the El Refugio property to get to the campsite where I’ll be spending the day. You might not see where this is going right away, but bear with me. I have a love/hate relationship with running. I dread doing it because it’s work and I often think I could be spending that time in a better way. But, I love the results of running and the experience itself is usually very rewarding. I always know it will be worth it— I just don’t really like doing it.

Hiking is basically the same for me. I know it’s good for me, I enjoy it when I’m doing it, and I often question if there’s a better way to spend my time. Actually, if I’m not hiking with a pack, I’ll probably jump at the opportunity if I know there will be great views and it will take a specific amount of time that seems reasonable to me. Here’s where I’ll bring it back. The 30 minute hike I made today was with a pack. To me, that changes the experience. Add in that extra weight and discomfort, and I’d much rather throw everything in the car and off-road it to the same spot and enjoy the view that way. So I think.

The truth is, every time I’ve got a pack on and find myself panting hard and sweating I just can’t wait to push through it. I don’t like it. I want to get to the campsite, the lookout point, or wherever the destination may be as fast as I can. But if it weren’t for those tiring, uphill sections, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now writing this. The hard times are the ones that leave the greatest impression on us and are where we often learn more profoundly. And instead of just trying to push past it, what might happen if in the midst of difficult times like that, we were to ask the simple question, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me through this?”

This year’s theme could almost fit within last year’s. The theme title is, ‘Jump.’ The imagery that goes with it is a backpacker, making the leap across a chasm— from one rock face to another. Picture yourself as the same hiker from the first paragraph. On that hike to the peak of the mountain, you come across a gulley. There’s a river way down at the bottom, and no clear way around. The gap isn’t a mere hop, but it does seem possible to leap over if you gave 110% of your effort. Questions might fill your mind: Is this the right way? Is it necessary to jump over this chasm? Should we turn back? What happens if I don’t make it to the other side? Did our guide lead us here intentionally? And if so, why?

As I was hiking today, another complicating question came to my mind when thinking about this very situation. What if there are two spots where it seems equally ideal to jump? Perhaps one has an easier landing at first, though it’s a steeper climb up after you land. In the other spot, though steeper at first, there are a number of exposed roots which would be great to grab onto and secure yourself after the leap. Both have pros and cons, yet both seem to be good options. And to make things more complex, the one option seems to be the natural extension of the path you’ve been on— whereas the other seems it will take you a different way.

For me, the logical question is to discern which one is better. I think most of us naturally approach things this way. But what I’ve been challenged to ask instead is: Which is the way God wants to lead me? The whole first challenge in this scenario is to work up the courage, faith, and trust to make the leap. But right along with that is: Which is the way I’m meant to go? Which path has God prepared for me?

Perhaps that’s where you stand today. Ready to make the jump, but unsure of where to jump to. Maybe you’re not convinced that this is the right way. Or, maybe you can see the jump off in the distance and are like me— you know it’ll feel good and will be worth it, but would rather do something else to fill your time.

Though I described the 30 minute hike as uphill, the last 5 minutes are actually much more level. I caught my breath. I stopped breathing so hard. I began to reflect. I realized the workout actually made my body feel pretty good. And everything you just read came whirring through my mind during that time. Life isn’t all uphill. It’s also not always level. And we’ll find chasms along the way that will require faith and trust— they might also contain some tough life choices. But with Christ as our guide, we can firmly place our trust in Him. We can trust that we are where we’re meant to be. And, we can have faith that if we really are seeking His leading, the place we jump to will be right. And our guide will be there waiting for us, continuing on alongside us as we walk the winding, but rewarding paths of life.

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